How to find (and keep) the best hotel sales talent right now

Group and catering revenues often make or break your property’s P&L and determine whether you outperform your comp set.

Your sales team’s performance is often the key to winning… so you must have quality salespeople. While most hotels have found a way to stay competitive in the transient space (with proper revenue management and smart hotel marketing), gaining a competitive advantage on the group side requires an enhanced commitment to recruiting and retaining sales talent.

How to find and retain the best hotel sales talent right now:

We asked our own Jeff Spaccio, Tambourine’s DOSM-in-Residence, for advice on finding and retaining top sales talent. Jeff has 20 years’ experience with managing sales operations at more than 60 flagged properties, hotel management companies and independents.

Q: What is the biggest challenge hotels face right now in finding great sales talent?

A: One of the challenges DOSMs and their recruiters currently face in today’s job market is that Millennials—who typically make up the majority of a property’s salesforce—often prioritize life/work balance. This inhibits hoteliers’ efforts to recruit top performing talent because hotels still have a traditional work schedule compared to other companies, especially tech/web firms.

Big changes must occur in the way hotels think about and treat millennial talent.  They want flexibility in hours, pay for performance, rapid promotions based on performance and liberation from old school rules.  Believe it or not, some hotels still require female employees to wear closed-toed shoes (even relaxed, resort style hotels).  And many still restrict access to social media networks and other sites that are necessary to do their job…it’s crazy!

Q: Where should hotels look for sales talent?

A: Currently, most hotels and HMG’s are using recruiting sites like, indeed, and their own internal career portals to find talent.  Some of the smart ones have begun to recruit on LinkedIn but not in a formal process.  As mentioned above, current hotel HRD’s (HR directors) are bogged down with paperwork, processing and putting out fires within the larger departments like housekeeping and front office operations. Hotels must make a change in HR in order to attract and retain new talent in sales (and all disciplines).  Generally, recruiting is left to the DOSM through networking and the traditional channels mentioned earlier.  Hotel DOSM’s are simply too busy to focus on the most important factor in their success… their team!

In my view, HRD’s need to be stripped of all administrative responsibilities as much as possible and hand them to a junior coordinator. They need to cultivate social networks on LinkedIn and Facebook where potential employees can find and communicate with them.  They need to be at job fairs and getting out into the community, actively pinpointing and recruiting the right people.

Q: What characteristics do you look for in sales candidates?

A: Hotels must hire sales talent that can relate to younger and young-at- heart meeting planners.  This is largely related to technology. Hotels are still an antiquated industry when it comes to technology. I have never seen a hotel sales team effectively using Skype. But our customers are on it.

Paper still exists in the hotel business for sales contracts and proposals (although it’s slowly going away).  Tech-savvy employees are critical to the shift.

And of course… confidence, leadership and fearlessness are still key qualities of any good salesperson.

Q: What KPIs do you suggest DOSMs measure?

A: This is a good question and a tough one.  Like most businesses, salespeople are measured based on the revenue results that they bring to the organization, and this still remains the primary KPI in the hotel business.

You generally have 90 days after ramp up to make your numbers and then you are put on a PIP (performance improvement plan), after that you have another 90 days to meet agreed-upon expectations or you will go into a 30 day PIP and then “agree to move on” if the numbers aren’t met. Other factors DOSM’s can/should look at are the employee’s positive influence on the culture of the property, leads organically created and any deals in the pipeline near closing.

Q:  How many sales people does a property need based on its size/meeting space?

A: In general, always a DOSM and, if there is 5K or more of viable meeting space, a DOC.  Then typically, 1 group salesperson per 100 rooms, and 1 catering salesperson per 8k square feet. Hotels in corporate areas will have a transient – Business Travel Sales Manager and in leisure destinations will have a Leisure Transient Sales Manager.

The Org for a 300 room, 20k square foot property will be:

  • DOSM
  • DOC (CS) – Director of Catering and convention services
  • 3 group sales managers (reps)
  • 2 CM – Catering Managers
  • 2 CSMs – Convention services managers (operations focused)
  • 1 BT or LT sales manager
  • 1 Group Coordinator
  • 1 sales coordinator (admin)

Q: Why do most hotel sales people fail?

A: First, most commonly, because they are not attacking the correct market.

Most just need to focus on the proven markets that are working and throw away or get rid of dead leads that are wasting their time.

Second, because their leaders are being defocused by corporate nonsense. Typically, in flagged properties, the inbound volume of leads is constant (usually a good problem to have) but 90% of them are not going to close.  Some sales leaders are worried about brand-monitored metrics of response time and follow up on non-viable leads to meet brand expectations.  A system needs to be put in place by the sales leader to fish where the fish are biting, resist “political” KPIs and keep their team focused on revenue!

Salespeople MUST treat their market like it’s their own business. Be organized and focus on their quota.

Q: What are the basic things that should be provided to each salesperson?

A: A viable market. All markets run hot and cold but there must be some fertility in a market.

On a practical level, a laptop and a smartphone (many hotels still have salespeople with desktops, which is silly), and continuing education, a HUGE issue for the industry especially1 with millennials. Hotels need to shift more investment into training.

And finally, a commitment to a “coaching culture” is vital to success. The team must follow and believe in their leader.

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