Back to Hotel Sales Basics: The Basics Have Changed Big Time!
9/11 precipitated the last severe recession and was a watershed moment in the hotel sales prospecting process. Prior to this cataclysmic event it was possible to send legions of sales people on the road armed with business cards and tell them to walk into every door of every building and at least leave their card in the hope of locating new prospects. As a wise person once said, ‘hope is not a strategy.'
That is why I am bit concerned when some experts insist that hotels should hire a quantity of sales people that should just go out and pass out business cards. There may be some smaller markets where this is still possible but in most markets it is not due to security restrictions deployed after 9/11.
In this recession, with the pressure on hotel sales departments to produce results or be potentially be downsized, it doesn't seem a very efficient way to prospect for new business if it ever was. There are good reasons that vacuum cleaner sales people don't go door to door any more --- if it worked, they would still be doing it!
The world of sales has changed and not just hotel sales. Ask any sales person that is told to make cold telephone calls to a ‘list' how many ‘dials' they need to make before they reach a live person. Ask them the response of the live person if they reach them. Ask them the number of cold calls they have to make to get to a closed deal. The call to closing ratio on this activity is astronomical but then ‘even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then'.
The internet has exploded exponentially and provides simple prospecting tools that enable a sales person to locate companies and organizations most likely to require the services that their hotel has to offer -- within their area and beyond for those hotels, such as full service hotels , resorts and conference centers who prospect on a regional and/or national basis.
- Google Maps. If yours is an urban or suburban hotel that relies on the local market for most of its business, this is an amazing tool. It's like walking the territory in the confines of the office. Enter the zip code and refine the search to include businesses. Enter the address of a building in your market and it will pull up all of the businesses located in the building.
- Google Search. This has a number of applications. Enter the kind of business you are looking for in a certain location or zip code. You can also do a search for your competitors. If a company or organization is holding a meeting or function at a competitor's hotel and it is mentioned on their web site, the info will pop up!
- Key Word Search. Know what kind of client you are looking for by market segment. Once you a have ascertained the DNA of the ideal client by market segment you can enter key words to find more like them. For example, is you are looking meetings from alternative energy companies, enter the key word and drill it down by entering solar or wind and there is a list.
- Market Specific Web Sites. This is especially applicable for the SMERFE market. There are multiple sites for military reunions, class reunions, weddings, etc. Log onto the local or state High School Athletics Associations for info on tournaments and events. Have you logged onto the web site for the university in your market to locate all of the departments so you can ‘map' that account?
- Online Business Publications. Most local Business Journals have an online version that, when signed up for, comes into your Inbox every day with the day's business headlines or log into the site and the headlines for the day and the week are displayed. The articles on specific companies and organizations usually have links to the companies' web sites. For example, a recent article in the Denver Business Journal provided a list of ‘shovel ready' projects identified by the CDOT that will activate with the Economic Recovery Stimulus Package. It included bid dates and specific locations.
- Online RFPs. There are RFP site s for virtually every market segment. StarCite is the preeminent site in corporate, association and government RFPs although there are many others. Priceline Groups allows a group to enter the type of property and rate range. The request is forwarded to those properties that fit the specification and the hotel can decide whether to take it or not. Groople allows groups to enter the type of group they are and the site then sorts the hotel options by the amenities that are important to those kinds of groups. Again, the lead goes to the selected hotels for follow up.
Does this mean you don't need to call or email them - no. Internet prospecting allows the sales person to identify organizations with the likelihood of having business so that they can develop a targeted, solution based approach to these prospects. Internet prospecting provides a shot gun approach versus the ‘scatter shot' approach of passing out business cards indiscriminately to any one on the street.
Internet prospecting is a sound prospecting strategy - hope is not!
Check out the online prospecting module developed in conjunction with Newmarket at