Hotel group sales teams need better digital skills to capture more deals.
Advances in digital have dramatically altered the ways group planners/buyers do business.
Today, B2B customers are doing 80 percent of their pre-purchase research in the digital world. Meeting planners/buyers are relying far less on hotel salespeople for information, instead choosing to educate themselves on potential venues via the web and peer referrals.These clients no longer want cold calls, or even emails; 90 percent of C-level executives claim to never respond to these tactics, according to Salesforce.
Quite simply, hotel salespeople have to adapt… and quickly.
Traditionally, hotel sales teams use classic old-school textbook techniques, relying heavily on relationship selling and cold calls to book business. At branded hotels, sales teams often receive very little digital help or ‘air cover’ from their corporate parents (other than lead flow). While Independents tend to be a bit more resourceful, since they’re wholly responsible for leads. But both hotel types need to enhance their digital skills, to keep up with the latest evolution of B2B buyers.
Here are the three most effective ways hotel salespeople can elevate their digital game:
1. Get data
The first step of a digital sales effort starts with conducting digital research, to obtain key information about both your customers and competition. Discovering where to go on the web and various databases to research potential clients and do your homework on prospects’ needs should be done before you engage with those prospects. Take some time to read their blogs, LinkedIn pages, website and other ‘digital footprints’.
You can also employ affordable, easy-to-use tools to better understand prospects’ profiles and behavior. Helpful tools include:
- LinkedIn Sales Navigator – LinkedIn’s subscription-based sales tool helps sales reps target buyers and companies, with features to save leads and create various contact lists. The system contains an algorithm that helps find the best potential leads for each user, while sales research and insight tools help reps study their prospective clients. Communication tools are also built into the software, and it seamlessly logs and imports sales activity to and from CRM systems.
- Knowland Group Data – Knowland Group’s market intelligence products help sales reps find targets that meet their group revenue maximszation goals, understand trends in the market and tap into undiscovered opportunities. Their data includes planner buying behaviour, group booking patterns and market benchmarking, as well as actionable leads, educational resources and an archive of lead contact data.
2. Get in sync with the marketing team
Hotel sales leaders need to work closely with their marketing and IT colleagues to create an ideal digital workflow and lead flow. A proven method is to implement a CRM system to track activity, append clean targeting data and track lead behaviour. There’s a huge payoff from the approach: An App Data Room to study found that sales and marketing alignment can improve sales efforts at closing deals by 67 percent.
Both sales and marketing departments should also cooperate on marketing automation, which can send the right message, at the right time, to the right meeting planner or group lead, while keeping teams informed as target prospects engage with company websites and marketing materials. In addition, sales teams should provide marketing with guidance and feedback on which digital channels, social media, etc., that sales prospects are currently using.
3. Get social
Embracing digital doesn’t mean the longstanding practice of relationship-based selling no longer applies; it’s just moved into a different medium. According to LinkedIn, three out of four B2B buyers now rely on social media to engage with peers about buying decisions. More than three-quarters (82 percent) of B2B buyers say vendor content shared on social channels (like LinkedIn) has a significant impact on their buying decision, while B2B buyers are five times more likely to engage with a sales rep who provides new insights about their business or industry, according to LinkedIn research.
With that in mind, today’s sales teams should be using digital to enable ‘social selling’, which essentially means building relationships and nudging leads along through the sales process via savvy, helpful, UNSELFISH social media interaction, rather than outdated and ineffective methods like phone calls and email.
This is primarily done by providing content that solves the problems and answers the questions of customers, as well as by interacting one-on-one with leads through social media. It’s different from wide-swath ‘shotgun marketing’ on social, where branding-related content is shared everywhere in hopes of going viral and building awareness; social selling, rather, makes the customer the key dictator of the type of content shared, based on their specific wants and needs.
And remember, social interaction doesn’t end with that sale, either.
Social platforms are also employed post-sale to retain and upsell customers, especially by creating a channel for customers to share feedback and vent frustration. Referrals are now essential to lead generation, with 84 percent of B2B buyers beginning the buying process with a referral and more than 90 percent of purchase decisions influenced by peer recommendations, according to a 2016 Harvard Business Review article.
So now, more than ever, the time you spend on digital sales efforts—especially building and maintaining your social media network and reputation—will have a direct and meaningful impact on your sales pipeline. This is one game you want to be sure you’re playing to win.