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05/26/2022

Using Technology to Navigate the Shifting Sales Landscape

The right tools can help you look deeper into the market to better understand where business is going.
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a group of people in a hotel conference room

Technology is a great thing, especially when it works. And, when used correctly, it can boost sales dramatically. Additionally, it can help hotels understand target customers, improve business efficiency, increase organizational knowledge, grow customer relationships, and finally, shift business.

As hotels continue to work with smaller teams, using technology to make them more efficient is vital to ensure they can deliver the highest revenues and most profit for their hotels. This isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must-have.

Understanding Your Target Customers

The right tools can help teams eliminate the guesswork by unveiling those companies or organizations most likely to buy your product. Knowing where to spend time vs. when to respond is critical to optimizing valuable time.

Technology can help sales teams understand whom they are competing against (chances are it’s not whom you think it is). Where meetings are happening has shifted significantly. If you aren’t looking everywhere in your market, chances are you are missing out on an opportunity (or three.) The right tools can help you look deeper into the market to better understand where business is going.

Knowing which competitor your potential or current customers are using can help a salesperson create the value propositions to present to customers. The cadence of meetings has been dramatically altered by COVID. However, regular patterns are beginning to assert themselves. Understanding those patterns and the total value of an account vs. the individual value of an event can also help teams prioritize time.

Improving Business Efficiency

Statistics show that businesses without automation spend 71 percent of their time and resources planning and defining business processes. The same holds true for sales organizations. Selling requires a number of tedious, time-consuming, and repetitive tasks, such as scheduling sales appointments, sending follow-up emails, and updating sales opportunities (all of which reduce productivity and profitability).

By using technology to save time and energy, employees can focus more intently on providing customers with an excellent experience or getting more productive work done to finish projects, save money, and ultimately increase sales.

Increasing Organizational Knowledge

During the pandemic, much hospitality talent walked out, potentially never to return. With them went an extreme amount of institutional knowledge about accounts, contacts, preferences, etc.

Now is the time to reimagine how the CRM is used because, chances are, an entirely new staff will need guidance. Now is the time to train them on how to optimize your CRM. This goes beyond the events accounts have had at your hotel. Teams should be capturing every conversation, lost piece of business, or prospecting for new contacts within the account. Make sure the team is tracking that and that for every account there is a clear understanding of what the overall potential is.

When marketing to potential customers directly, does the hotel have a clear understanding how those contacts respond? Are they using a tool like HubSpot or Salesforce to understand how customers interact with marketing? There’s something to be said about the philosophy of “plan your work and work your plan.” This extends to selling.

For each account, understanding the Total Account Value and what percentage the hotel is getting is key to expanding market share. If the hotel doesn’t have that insight, then doing so is mission critical. Once the value of an account is established each account should have a plan of attack to determine what the hotel is going to do to capture more business. And don’t forget to target both group and transient spend and have plans to target both.

Customer Relationships

Even before the pandemic, hotels had let relationships slide. Business was so good pipelines could be filled without really trying. Now, hotels have to try. Because you know who was as disrupted as our industry? Meeting planners. The planners hotels thought were “locked” before, may not be around anymore. Or they may have shifted loyalty because no one was around to answer the phone when they needed a hotel. Now it’s time to get back to the business of selling and developing relationships.

Consider these key questions:

  • For all your top accounts do your hotels still know who is booking the business?
  • Has there been consolidation?
  • Are there all new contacts that need to be cultivated?
  • Did business shift from a centralized location booking to local offices? Does your team even know? If not, now’s the time.
  • What is the cadence? Booking windows are still shorter than normal. Does the frequency of calls need to change to stay ahead of the shorter booking windows?

Towards the latter part of 2020 when meetings emerged, one thing seen all too frequently was that the legal department oversaw the decision. While that has probably dropped off, did companies bring in new processes in the decision-making? Is this understood by hotels? If not, business might be lost because a box wasn’t ticked.

While all of this seems frighteningly manual, it is important to remember someone has to learn all of this AND they have to record it. This goes back to institutional knowledge. Assume everyone might win the lottery and call in rich tomorrow. All account details need to be in the CRM, and it needs to be updated regularly. Having detailed processes on tracking account progress will firm up ephemeral pipelines.

Shifting Business

Finally, what may likely be the gamechanger for hotels within the next three years is electronic booking for meeting spaces and group rooms and not electronic RFPs on the website. Consider investing in a fully automated booking engine for meeting space and guest rooms. If your hotel doesn’t have one currently, get one. Now is the time.

Staffs are smaller and finding new people is harder and more competitive. What if all those one-day small meetings could be booked instantly by little Susie at the local office? She selects her space, pays for it, books the rooms, puts in the names, signs the contract, and selects and pays for all her menus. And at the end of it, all you have to do is generate a Banquet Event Order.

Think about how many small meetings have eaten up precious time. Now is the time to embrace this. Our industry is at a tipping point just like we were with guest room booking engines 20 years ago.

Now that this time has been saved, teams can focus on being more proactive. Return to cultivating those customer relationships so your property, and only your property, gets the call.

Think about meeting space in totality. How many days does your hotel go down with space? Could that space be optimized more effectively if you had a 24/7 sales machine selling? Taking the human factor out of smaller meetings will both increase your revenue and optimize your space. For instance, how often does a salesperson comp a meeting room for guest room spend or F&B spend? Even when the customer DIDN’T ask. Taking the human element out of the equation (assuming you’ve priced properly), eliminates that option and revenue comes in.

The reality is the capacity for managing the mundane, tracking the correct knowledge, and gaining insight into profitable opportunities is already available to you with the proper technology.

Our industry is getting closer to “normal” every week. Effectively utilizing available tools will produce both short- and long-term results. Hotels that make the best use of their technology will be the ones to return to normal sooner rather than later.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

As a hospitality veteran by trade, with two decades of experience in the hotel and revenue management side of the industry, Kristi White, Chief Product Officer, Knowland, has a pulse on the needs of hospitality group business. She has advised hundreds of hotels worldwide on improving their business strategy, hotel performance, and overall profitability. She is a recognized expert in hotel group sales and meeting intelligence and a frequent speaker at industry conferences and universities, as well as a former member of the Board of Directors for the HSMAI Revenue Management Special Interest Group.