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05/04/2021

Integrations are Key to an Innovative Group Sales Strategy

Just as your revenue system would not function properly without a tight integration to your PMS, neither will your sales and catering system.

Just as the sales team often sits apart from the other operational departments at a hotel – spending much of their time on the road and away from the property – traditional sales and catering software has been largely disconnected as well.

Nevertheless, today’s hoteliers understand the importance of various departments – marketing, revenue, sales and operations – working more closely together, aligned on strategy and building toward the same goals. As hoteliers work toward building modern, integrated technology stacks, a key is to tightly integrate sales and catering tools to serve more purposes and work effectively with other important hotel tech systems.

Modern sales and catering software does more than just track upcoming group business. Today’s tools serve as an end-to-end platform for hosts and guests, creating efficiencies that start at the booking process and continue through the entire event. Today’s tools modernize the way meeting planners connect with venues, allowing hotels to display rates and inventory for their accommodation and meeting space online to facilitate real-time bookings. Once a booking is confirmed, these tools afford hoteliers and meeting planners the ability to manage the entire operational processes of a meeting, including diagramming, invoicing and payments, the creation of Banquet and Event orders, and much more.

To do so, integrating your sales and catering software into your tech stack alongside your PMS, CRS, RMS, CRM, etc. is critical. Just as your revenue system would not function properly without a tight integration to your PMS, neither will your sales and catering system.

The Evolution of Today’s Tech Stack

For too long, hoteliers have been challenged with building the optimal hotel tech stack, ensuring their systems are properly integrated and suppliers are working with their best interests in mind. A new wave of modern, API-first technology providers is driving the industry forward, taking the responsibility out of hoteliers' hands and promising more efficient and inexpensive ways to connect systems and share critical data.

Suppliers are finally recognizing that they must work together, take responsibility for integrations and put the customer’s needs first. The onus of integrating technology should not be put on the hotel operator. When each of your technology partners take this approach, there is no more “finger pointing” – systems are deployed faster and issues are resolved behind the scenes.

Cloud infrastructure has been a critical driver here, providing an environment where connecting two technologies is quicker and less costly. Simultaneously, new suppliers are pushing the industry forward by building “API first” – planning and collaborating with stakeholders on the design of the API before any code is written. These products are built with APIs that are consistent and reusable.

When technology providers take an open approach to collaborating, meaning they’ll connect and work closely with as many tools necessary for the hotelier to best perform his or her job, everyone wins.

Proper Sales and Catering Integrations

When sales and catering software is tightly integrated with the rest of the technology stack, it automates most of the processes operators have traditionally performed manually and frees teams up to focus on higher-level, revenue-generating processes. Data sharing keeps sales teams out of the PMS and allows them to work in a system they are comfortable with.

For example, a tight integration with the PMS allows reservations data to flow back and forth so the sales team doesn’t need to request data from the reservations department to see what’s on the books. After a block of rooms is reserved, this helps meeting planners see how many actual reservations have been made. It allows the sales team to see room-night availability in real time so they can quote the right dates to future prospects.

A two-way integration with the RMS can also ensure real-time group data is made available to the revenue team so the revenue system can perform dynamic yielding of meeting space and accurate displacement calculations. No longer are sales teams in charge of pricing for future meetings – that function is left to the people and systems that do it best. When the partnership flourishes, accurate rates can be passed back to the sales and catering system so salespeople are quoting the most profitable offers to their prospective customers.

Also important is the live connection between your sales and catering software and your website, which allows inventory options and rates to be shown on the website in real time. Modern sales and catering software is responsible for capturing as much information about a prospective meeting as possible, saving the sales team time going back and forth with the client before producing an RFP. Armed with the right information collected from the website, the RFP process can be fully automated if the venue chooses to do so.

Finally, your sales and catering system should pass real time data to your analytics and reporting tool so that everyone on the team can see past and future data in real time. Clearly, data sitting in one siloed system is not useful. Every data point should be made available in the systems where operations teams are already comfortable, allowing real-time reports to be generated at the property level and across the entire portfolio at the corporate level.

The bottom line is that hotels and hotel companies are going to be operating with smaller staffs and with employees handling multiple responsibilities. You don’t want your sales team logging into multiple systems they aren’t comfortable with. Sharing data between systems and between teams puts the resources in the hands of the people who are best qualified to be making decisions.

Best of Breed vs. Single Platform

Because integrations have been so challenging in the past, hoteliers were eventually tempted to purchase all of their technology from a single provider. They were under the assumption that if a single supplier provided all parts of the tech stack, that the parts would at least be well integrated. However, that often isn’t the case.

What’s more likely is that a technology company providing a single product purchased complementary parts of the tech stack and then cobbled them together with patchy integrations. This often leaves suppliers spread thin without the focus and resources dedicated to each functionality. While one product might be best-in-class, the others are not receiving the attention (and updates) they deserve.

However, as companies begin taking API-first approaches, integrations have become quicker and less expensive, meaning hoteliers can reap the benefits of building a best-of-breed tech stack. They can choose to work with a handful of providers that have each built standout systems. Data is no longer siloed in one system but rather centralized and shared across the entire stack, served up at the right time in the run path.

When more hoteliers choose best-of-breed technologies, this has a positive effect on tech suppliers as well. It allows them to focus on what they are good at instead of branching out and attempting to become an all-in-one solution provider. Companies can remain laser focused on improving their niche products by continually updating with new features and functionality and put more resources toward building partnerships with both other suppliers and hotel clients.

Across hotel operations, each department is undergoing a digital transformation, moving from traditional paper processes to digital tools that allow staff to work more efficiently and drive profitability. Today’s sales teams will benefit from innovative tools as well, but only if these systems are properly integrated within the already existing tech stack. When looking to modernize the group sales process, ensure your partners have already built the integrations you need to be successful now and into the future.