Free Your Sales Team

Making your hotel sales office recession-ready depends on knowing what business you want and freeing your team up to close it. Written sales guidelines are the recipe for what we call "Open Selling," and this recipe helps your team evaluate leads and prioritize those pieces of business that are the best fit for your hotel. Open Selling Guidelines provide a checklist for qualification and speed to market.

How do you create Open Selling Guidelines? Most important, they need to be written down. Too often, hotel sales offices operate on an oral history basis, and sales leaders make the assumption that their expectations have been passed on accurately as new folks join the team. I can't count the number of times I've been told "Oh, they know what to book" while at the same time observing sales people turn down valid leads and chase business that doesn't make sense. Write your guidelines down.

What should Open Selling Guidelines include?

Seasonality: What are your peak, shoulder, and off-peak months? What about days of week? Do certain dates yield higher revenue from event spaces? (For example, in hotels with strong wedding demand, the Sundays of holiday weekends like Memorial Day or Labor Day often have strong demand; as such, they should be priced like the Saturdays of non-holiday weekends.)

Minimum Room Rates: For each demand period and/or day of week, what is the lowest rate a seller can quote without asking permission? How does this compare to the rates being offered on OTAs?

Revenue Minimums: How much revenue (food, beverage, and room rental) should each event space yield? How can you package rental with F&B minimum to get the same revenue?

Group Ceiling: How many transient rooms can you sell in each demand period without dumping out too much inventory at a deep discount? As such, what is the maximum number of group rooms you are willing to accept at a discount in each season/day of week?

Rooms to Space Ratio: How many group rooms do you need to justify taking each event space out of inventory? If a program requires several break-out rooms, are you making sure that you're getting a commensurate number of guest rooms or room rental?

House Rules: What unique circumstances apply to your hotel? Are there length of stay restrictions on certain nights of the week? What are preferred arrival days? Are there event space turn time requirements that exceed the standard one hour?

Once you and your fellow revenue leaders have answered those questions, put the guidelines together on a one-sheet document for your team, and review it. Often. Have it available at DBR, go over it multiple times, and -- really important! -- change the rules that aren't working. If a particular house rule is getting ignored regularly, it's probably too restrictive. Establish that the Open Selling Guidelines are an ever-evolving work in progress, and encourage your team to question them.

A note on group evaluation tools: Many hotels have automated tools to analyze group business by calculating displacement and determining pricing. These tools are great, but they should exist in service to your Open Selling Guidelines, not in place of them. It's important that the DOSM, DORM, and GM set the group evaluation tool up accordingly, and review the results on a quarterly basis at minimum. If your evaluator is returning results that you override on a regular basis, the basic assumptions built into the tool need to be updated.

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