Hotel group sales teams have upped their game to counter a glut of new supply in many markets.
The opening of a shiny new hotel in the market can make even the most successful hotel sales manager shudder with nervousness.
After all, new hotels create buzz. Everyone wants a piece of them – especially meeting planners who are hungry for something new and novel.
Even if the hotel’s meeting capabilities and venue space don’t turn out to be as amazing as marketed, one thing is for certain – they have the upper hand and will be well-positioned to steal group business for at least a few years.
That is, unless you get smart now.
We asked a few hotel group sales experts for their advice on innovative ways to deal with new competitors for group business.
Our first three tips are from John Washko, a hotel sales expert with past leadership roles at Elite Meetings International, Atlantis and the Broadmoor:
1. You never forget your first
Hotel Sales Organisations should be continually monitoring new businesses entering the area. The key is to get the jump on the other hotels/resorts in your compset by reaching out first, inviting the top players to the hotel for a ‘get to know you’ breakfast, lunch, or dinner. This provides an opportunity for the leadership teams (as appropriate) to meet and foster a dialogue on what both organisations have to offer. This should be done in the spirit of achieving a win-win, by exploring how both organisations can help each other. This information exchange would include all the property has to offer, including the property’s amazing meeting/banquet space and inventive F&B offerings.
2. Stay ahead of the curve on local events
Many times when a special event, such as a concert or festival come to town, there are group and/or meeting opportunities that accompany these events. Establish a process for the sales team to research and reach out to affiliated organisations or clubs and offer a block of rooms at a group rate while the event is in town.
An example would be the Bon Jovi Fan Club. There is a group of avid 40 to 50 year olds, predominately women, that whenever possible travel to see Jon Bon Jovi perform. The property can also provide additional value by offering to arrange discounted transportation to the show, based on a minimum number of rooms consumed. Car clubs for major car shows, races, or auctions is another example. Again, the key is being ahead of your competition by reaching out first.
3. Sales is everyone’s responsibility
By creating an organisational culture that emphasises the reality that all employees are in sales, hotels and resorts can grow meeting and group opportunities. This is accomplished first through educating all employees on what function space the property enjoys, highlighting unique venues such as rooftop pool decks, or an ocean-side ballroom.
Next, create employee recognition plans that reward and celebrate any team member that generates new group or meeting opportunities. Some potential groups include social organisations board meetings, sweet 16 parties, bar & bat mitzvah’s and special birthday/anniversary celebrations. This fosters an environment where every employee, no matter what position they hold, is given an additional opportunity (outside of their daily job requirements) to be instrumental in the properties success.
And here’s a few more from Jeff Spaccio, former regional director of sales for The Procaccianti Group and Pyramid Hotel Group (and currently the DOSM-in-Residence at Tambourine).
4. Celebrate the old-school sales call blitz
While a sales call blitz may no longer be the norm for many in the hotel industry, they still work to rev up your sales team and can pay off handsomely if executed right.
Here’s what to do:
Collect all of your sales managers in a large conference room and start the morning off by treating them to breakfast. Organise all sales targets geographically to make it more efficient for sales managers to make calls.
Offer generous incentives for various milestones, like ‘best call’, ‘most calls’, or ‘highest total revenue opportunity’ for each group segment (meetings, catering, business). Invite the GM and other department heads along so they can witness the excitement, energy and determination it takes to book business.
At the end of the day-long sales blitz, debrief and celebrate everyone’s wins over dinner. Then, make sure all those calls and determination don’t go to waste. Sales managers need to follow-up with each lead consistently.
5. Create enticing offers for current clients
New business is essential, but it also makes sense to incentivise current clients to stay with you and keep them away from new compset offerings:
Make the planner look good: Offer complimentary room nights, spa certificates or free restaurant meals that the planner will pass along to the client’s or company’s HR department for employee incentives or giveaways.
Help planners give back: Create charitable rebate programs that offer a 5 or 10 percent rebate on all revenue generated by the group. The total will be donated to a charity of the organisation’s choice.
Sponsor a night out: Build a package where your hotel offers a night out (not at your own hotel) to a fun spot in town, along with transportation.
6. Create employee incentives for lead generation
Every employee has a family member that gets married at some point, a family reunion, belongs to a church or association that holds meetings, maybe their family member works for a corporation that has needs, their brother or sister has kids that travel to the area for amateur sporting events.
Give each employee an incentive for referring that leads to the sales department. Adhere to your hotel’s policy on employee giveaways – but try to be generous here! Give employees really strong reasons to refer business.
Have fun with it and make it part of your culture.