The traditional approach to hotel sales relied more on personality than process. Negotiations were simpler with fixed rates and few fees. As most planners and BT buyers were inexperienced, they didn’t demand many concessions. Inbound leads had higher closure rates due to the effort required to initiate an inquiry. Prospecting involved sending emails or making calls to random suspects, often without qualified leads.
Over the past decade, changes in technology and buyer behavior have disrupted the hotel sales process. Platforms like Hotel Planner, CVENT, and Lanyon have made it easier for buyers to issue RFPs to multiple hotels with a few clicks. Similarly, platforms like The Knot and Wedding Wire enable inquiries to multiple venues. This flood of leads has significantly reduced conversion rates to single digits. Pricing decisions have shifted to revenue management, sometimes overlooking long-term client value.
Challenges in Sales Lead Tracking and Prospecting
Sales lead tracking systems have become overloaded with unnecessary features, making it difficult for salespeople to focus on important tasks. Many still resort to old-school methods or use overloaded email inboxes. Prospecting has also changed, with office buildings requiring security access and remote work reducing face-to-face interactions. The emergence of independent meeting planners and wedding planners has further transformed the buyer landscape.
Hotel companies have responded to these changes by centralizing and automating sales processes. Cluster or regional sales offices staffed by remote teams have replaced personal connections. Automation has led to self-service booking for small groups and room blocks, potentially commoditizing the industry.
Solutions for Success in 2023
Hotels with larger sales teams can assign a centralized role of “sales lead catcher” to prioritize and respond to leads effectively. Every lead, even seemingly weak ones, should receive a courteous response, as circumstances may change. Salespeople should be proactive in moving prospects to flexible dates.
Training salespeople on revenue management systems and data points and vice versa will lead to better decisions. Salespeople should understand the concept of dynamic pricing for BT accounts, while revenue managers can appreciate the group and BT markets.
Proper configuration and training are crucial for effective use of sales CRM systems. Sales leaders should work with IT to ensure that default features are optimized. Salespeople must learn to use the CRM for important tasks like entering leads, attaching emails, taking notes, and tracing follow-ups.
Hotel sales leaders should ensure that responses sent by salespeople are personalized and not generic. Proposal templates, whether in word or electronic format, should be regularly updated with relevant content and imagery.
Salespeople should go beyond emails and utilize other communication methods. Personalized voicemails and follow-ups through phone calls and emails should be practiced consistently.
Technology should enhance, not replace, conversations. Scheduling apps and video calls can be used to facilitate communication. Short, personalized video emails can create a personal connection. Mastery of these mediums will set salespeople apart.
Encourage sales teams to research prospects before reaching out, enabling warmer calls. Personalized reach-outs that address specific needs and interests will yield better results. Prospecting should focus on building relationships rather than quantity.
The second half of the 2020s will bring more challenges and changes to the hotel sales industry. Inbound lead responses will become more centralized and automated, resembling administrative tasks. However, salespeople who embrace a “sales hunter” role and prioritize personal connections will excel and advance in their careers.