By Laura Needham
With hotels “grouping-up” in preparation for next year’s uncertain economic conditions for transient business, it is now critical for owners, managers and operators to get aggressive with their approach to group sales. Some hotels may already have a team of Hunters who are up for the challenge of proactively prospecting for leads and directly calling meeting planners. Order-Takers, who rely on inbound RFPs as a “strategy” to make quota, will have a greater learning curve in these trying times.
Below, we discuss how to identify the Hunters within your group sales team, and how to further nurture them for success and keep them happy for retention.
Recognizing Your Hunters
The Hunter: Simply put, a Hunter group salesperson executes a Proactive Group Sales Strategy in their day-to-day, meaning they spend their energy looking for new, quality business. They think critically about what type of group would best fit their hotel, and that informs whom they focus their efforts. This mental flexibility means they’ll have an easier time sourcing points of value to collaborate with a meeting planner, creating a partnership rather than a transactional relationship. Leaving a positive impression with a planner is crucial not only for the event in question, but also for fostering repeat business.
The Order-Taker: In contrast, an Order-Taker spends more time in their inbox, hoping and praying for a great opportunity to fall in their lap. While their greatest strength might be the speed in which they respond to inbound leads, their greatest weakness almost completely negates that: they rarely look beyond the RFP in-hand to truly understand the meeting planner’s needs and potential follow-along business. Furthermore, they need a constant influx of inbound leads to generate their pipeline, because they either cannot or will not generate their own. In other words, their “strategy” is not sustainable or forecastable.
The Farmer: There is a third type of salesperson who actually compliments the Hunter. Farmers typically do not find new business, but they “harvest” additional bookings from within their own book of business. The attention and care they take to sustain their relationships with meeting planners create a sense of brand loyalty, which will help generate repeat business.
Nurturing and Retaining Your Hunters
Hunters are demonstrably self-sufficient, but as with any good employee, their managers must still meet them halfway and provide an environment in which they can thrive. Nurture your Hunters to maintain their success, and keep them happy to retain them. They’re creative-thinking people, so be prepared to think creatively as well.
Compensation: Since Hunters are sales professionals, chances are they won’t be motivated by praise alone. Money motivates a good salesperson; if they can bring in tough sales for a hotel with a poor bonus plan, then they can do just as great of a job, if not better, for a hotel elsewhere with a more competitive compensation package. Consider these compensation ideas to nurture and retain your star Hunter:
- Higher bonuses on new business
- Kicker bonuses for achieving higher close rates
- Incentives for achieving higher revenue goals
- Higher bonuses on business during need periods
Being open to different compensation plans might be challenging, but it’s worth the investment if it keeps your top-producers happy and at your hotels.
Infrastructure: The way a Hunter goes about closing a sale is going to look very different from the approach of an Order-Taker. While having embedded and streamlined processes and proposal templates (even proactive ones like ours) provide a helpful, structured foundation to work from, oftentimes a meeting planner’s needs are going to require a collaborative Hunter to deviate from the templates. Just as you trust them when they go after business from their desks, also trust your Hunter when you see them talking to guests at the bar or your front desk, or even go off-site to visit planners at their offices. Either way, their goal is the same: to close a sale.
Tools: Also consider whether or not your Hunters have the right tools for success. In a data-driven age of hospitality tech, group salespeople are at a distinct disadvantage from their competition without insight into meeting planners’ past booking behaviors. Knowland’s SmartSearch technology looks at relevant past opportunities for a hotel and utilizes that to deliver the best-fit event opportunities. This empowers a dedicated Hunter to build their own pipeline on-demand, in real-time, with the criteria that matters most to them.
Check out other reasons why SmartSearch is so cutting edge and revolutionizing the way the hospitality industry proactively sells group.
Competition: Competition is not a bad word. In fact, an aggressive salesperson thrives on it. Embrace your Hunter’s competitive spirit by putting the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in place. Think beyond Occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR. What other goals make your property sing when you reach them? You could look at close ratio, pipeline value, and new business won relative to repeat business as a few examples. With specific and relevant KPIs to motivate your sales team, you can foster competition that matters, and further track and celebrate your Hunters’ successes.
Having a couple of Hunters on your team will serve you well no matter what comes next. During boon times, they will sell on your property’s value and find you better business; and during lean times, they will be better equipped to find business and make sure they get the most they can in revenue. There is no day like today to make the necessary changes in your organization to recognize, nurture and retain your Hunters.
For further discussion on this topic, check out our popular on-demand webcast, How to Create a Hunter Sales Team and Hit Your 2020 Group Targets.