The Chesapeake Point of View

All Encompassing: Getting Your Entire Property Involved In the Sales Process

All Encompassing: Getting Your Entire Property Involved In the Sales Process

June 10, 2013

Depending on who you talk to in the hotel industry, the answer to the question of what is the most effective way to drive sales can vary quite a bit. Some hotel owners and operators will focus on the management team, others on staff training, and others on aggressive and effective sales strategies. One management company might insist that great service will yield sales dividends down the road, and another might maintain that effective use of brand resources is essential.

So Who is Right?
The reality is that they are all right: effectively driving strong sales requires getting your entire property involved in the process. The best and most consistently effective hotel management companies recognize that great service and great sales go hand in hand, and that increasing revenue and maintaining a strong performance over time demands a true team effort from every single employee. It does not end with the sales team. In fact, there is a strong case to be made that it does not even begin with the sales team.
Whether you are a new property looking to increase bookings, a renovated property looking to execute a successful turnaround, an underperforming location in need of a management makeover, or an established hotel working to maintain market share, the fundamentals remain the same. The most effective way to increase efficiencies, boost bookings, provide guests with extraordinary service and a memorable experience, and ultimately strengthen sales and maximize your revenue stream is to create a collaborative and cohesive culture of sales that extends throughout the property. Hotel management teams who can successfully do so will establish a positive feedback loop of service, synergy and sales. When every employee—from the GM on down to bellhops, front desk personnel, and even janitorial staff—is focused on sales and understands how their job ties back into the larger sales goals of the hotel, great things can happen.
The real question, of course, is how. How can hotel management professionals leverage a property’s collective resources to take advantage of structural, operational, staffing and service synergies in a way that drives sales and boosts the bottom line? Doing so effectively requires a keen understanding of both the specific strategic and logistical steps involved, as well as an appreciation of some of the fundamental concepts that drive a cohesive and effective all-hands-on-deck sales strategy.

It Starts at the Top
It might seem counterintuitive to begin a discussion about getting your entire property involved in the sales process by focusing on one individual, but the reality is that without a great general manager, a hotel is almost certainly in trouble. Sales leadership starts with the GM.
If a property is going to maximize its revenue potential, the GM needs to be much more than simply a competent employee—he or she needs to be a visionary leader who sets the tone for
the whole organization. The best GMs are extremely hands-on and are heavily involved in virtually every aspect of the property: setting the tone, consistently reviewing progress towards specific goals, and reinforcing the connection between the work employees do and the larger sales goals of the hotel. If the GM can successfully accomplish those goals, ensure that key messaging is resonating with hotel employees, and remain an active, visible and vocal presence across all tiers of hotel operations, that goes a long way toward establishing a sales-focused culture that pays literal and figurative dividends for owners and investors.

The Right People
As important as the general manager position is to the success of a hotel, identifying quality candidates for the position needs to be a clear priority. While there is a definite personality “type” that tends to make a strong GM—outgoing, assertive, charismatic, high- energy—one of the oft-overlooked professional characteristics that distinguishes many of the most successful GMs is a sales background. Some of the most successful hotel management companies have had great success by cultivating leaders with experience in sales. While successful managers can come from anywhere, including traditional career paths like food and beverage or accounting, those operations- driven specialties are losing popularity as more and more managers with direct sales experience are successfully applying that expertise across the operational landscape of high-performing hotels. The bottom line for any GM is this: if you cannot deliver the top-line revenues, and have a keen understanding of how and why everything you do potentially impacts those revenues, you are going to have a tough time getting the job done in a way that makes a measurable and sustainable difference to the bottom line. GMs who understand sales are, by definition, in a better position to make that happen.

A Culture of Service
Establishing a “culture of service” is one of the most essential ingredients in a recipe for sales success. Building that culture requires consistency, urgency and a steadfast commitment to infusing a sales-minded mentality into even the smallest of interactions with guests. Hotel management professionals should remember—and emphasize to every member of their team—that everyone without a nametag should be treated as a customer. Perceptions are being formed all the time, and exceptional service extends to every moment a guest (or potential guest) is on the premises. At a time when travel is so fraught with the inconveniences and discomfort of airports, lines, delays, and traffic, the hotel should be a refuge from chaos and an escape from the stress and drama. Long before guests have arrived to their rooms, they have likely had meaningful engagements with a wide range of employees that may include everyone from the bellman or doorman, to the front desk worker, to perhaps a housekeeper in the hall. Everything matters. Everyone matters. Despite all of the dollars spent on advertising and brand identity, there are really very few defining characteristics that distinguish one hotel from another. Different signage, different brickwork and some modest design differences are all tangential: the guest experience is everything. The guest experience can be memorable and defining, and molding and influencing that experience in a positive manner is absolutely critical. The key is for management to help team members appreciate that they are an extension of the sales team, and that great service is not just related to sales, it literally is sales.

Departmental Synergy
Synergy between departments does not just “happen.” Hotel management companies need to ensure that the GM and the sales team are collaborating to provide the Director of Sales and other professional members of the sales team with the structure and support they need to make their sales initiatives an integral part of hotel operations, instead of a stand-alone department. That support is not just moral support, and it is not just conceptual: there needs to be regular and productive engagement between managers and decision-makers across all departments within the hotel. Sales and service goals need to be tracked together, and the GM needs to function as a kind of inter- departmental ambassador, supporting the sales team and delivering on the service excellence required to keep sales moving in the right direction. A highly visible GM can make an enormous impact on the way that the sales team connects to operational components of the hotel, and the presence of the GM can become a literal representation of the interrelated nature of the operation. Great GMs make a concerted effort to meet every client that the sales team engages—they know precisely who is staying at their hotel, and what slice of business (or potential business) those individuals represent.
Departmental synergy is important, because every department plays an important role— from HR doing their part to identify and hire the right team members, to restaurant staff or front desk employees going the extra mile for a guest—and the cumulative impact of that staffing and service resonates with guests. Hotel management professionals understand all too well that it is always much easier to book a repeat guest than to attract a new guest. Positive word of mouth is more potent than ever in the digital age, as online reviews make it much easier for guests to share their impressions (be they positive or negative) with the world. The speed and immediacy of the Internet means that those impressions have a correspondingly outsized impact on the way a hotel is perceived, and the result is a direct correlation between guest satisfaction and improved revenues.

High Standards
Holding yourself and your team to the highest standards is critically important. Successful hotel owners and operators should expect and demand that their hotels excel in the top tier of guest satisfaction rankings, and if they do not, they should implement a change in sales strategy to remedy the situation. But it is not enough to make vague demands: quality must be clearly defined, and measurable goals must be articulated with clarity. Part of the process of setting and meeting high standards is becoming a great steward of the brand, and effectively utilizing the many tools that the brand gives you. From online sales opportunities to marketing leverage and brand recognition, your hotel’s flag is a potent weapon: use it. Recognize that sales follows guest experience and satisfaction, and demonstrate that connection to your team with detailed weekly and monthly metrics. Help your team understand how their actions have a measurable impact on those key metrics, and do your part to reinforce that relationship by rewarding great performance.

Structure and Support
Finally, it is essential that hotels reinforce these sales- and service-driven principles and expand the sales process by implementing a few key meetings and programs that promote and support a sales culture. At a minimum your property management team should be conducting a daily business review meeting, where the GM and representative from operations and sales meet to coordinate activities and track short- and long-term goals. Daily revenue management strategy sessions, where key personnel can share their insights and objectives, are equally as important to ensure you are maximizing your revenue opportunities. In terms of translating service opportunities into improved sales, try starting customer relations initiatives such as a Preferred Customer or VIP reception. These are events that, for the price of a few cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, can generate enormous goodwill and customer loyalty, and present opportunities to identify promising sales leads. At Chesapeake Hospitality, for example, we have made it a habit to implement a Lobby Ambassador Representative Program, where a member of senior management is available at all times to take care of any concerns—but also
to further familiarize themselves with the guests and to identify possible sales opportunities. These individuals can also facilitate smooth and easy check-ins for large groups, and greet VIP or frequent guests. The impact of even small gestures like these is a testament to the way that service translates into sales, and the degree to which every aspect of a hotel’s operations is intimately connected to the bottom line.