Anatomy of a Hotel Sales Manager
posted at 11:32 AM on 06/29/2010
By Michael McKean
Not everyone is cut out for sales – especially cold calling. Quite frankly, few are. Finding those few natural, exceptional people can be a challenge in any environment, but especially now when so many people are looking for jobs. With a single job posting you can be inundated with cover letters and resumes, many of whom are not the slightest bit qualified. Still others look great on paper but turn out to be a big mistake a week into the job.
So how do you find the right people for your sales team? There are a few key qualities to look for in every sales manager you hire. These characteristics have nothing to do with their job history. While experience is obviously a factor, the people who exhibit the following traits naturally are the ones who will bring you the most success.
A People Person
One of the easier characteristics to identify is the ability to get along easily with anyone and everyone. You want someone who likes walking into a room of strangers and introducing themselves. But it’s more than just being outgoing. As any good DOS knows, hotel sales is all about building relationships with meeting planners. And with so many different groups out there, no two meeting planners are exactly alike. Developing those relationships takes time, and the process is never quite the same for any particular prospect.
A great sales manager will:
- Find and build upon a point of connection with the prospect quickly.
- Make every person they talk to feel like they can relate on a personal and professional level.
- Feel at ease interacting with different types of people in any social or business situation.
The interview is a great time to gauge whether a candidate is truly a people person. They are in essence selling themselves to you. If they seem awkward or ill at ease talking about themselves – a subject they should be very well versed in – it does not bode well for their sales skills.
A Good Conversationalist
Separate from being good at building relationships, a great sales manager will also be very skilled at the art of conversation. These are not shy people. A good conversationalist is:
- Excellent at small talk, explanations, even story telling.
- Good at sharing things about themselves, but more importantly, good at getting others to share important things with them.
- Experienced in knowing how to lead a conversation in a way that’s natural. There’s a delicate balance between guiding a conversation and still giving the prospect enough room to talk about what they’re interest in.
- Fast on their feet. They should be able to pick up on both positive cues and potential road blocks and know how to respond quickly.
Bunny Homa, business development manager at Oak Ridge, a Dolce conference hotel in Chaska, Minnesota, points out that a good sales person knows it isn’t features and benefits they are selling – it’s all about listening to what the customer is looking for, and providing solutions based on their needs. “It often means being a keen listener rather than a good talker,” she explains.
Al Luciano, director of sales and marketing at La Torretta Lake Resort & Spa in Montgomery, Texas, agrees that it’s all about being a good listener and doing your homework before you even start the sales process.
“Most sales people will just start talking to a person without really understanding who the customer is,” says Luciano. “A good sales person can articulate certain questions to lead the customer where they want them to go.”
The way to do that, explains Luciano, is by finding out about the customer ahead of time: “Knowland data, the customer’s web page, their Linked In profile, and their Facebook page are all different things you can look at before you start talking to someone to find out who you are dealing with.”
Even the best sales person is going to face rejection. Whether it’s a person who just can’t be bothered or an assistant who refuses access to the decision-maker, rejections will happen. When they do, a good sales manager needs to be able to:
- Have the persistence to call back meeting planners time and again even when they may be avoiding them.
- Know how to handle objections from gatekeepers in a professional manner.
- Understand that sales is a game of numbers, and for every rejection they receive they get one call closer to their next contract.
“You can’t let lost business get you down,” says Homa. “Even when you’re having a bad month, you have to maintain your positive attitude and just keep plugging away on your goals and working your plan!”
For any great hotel sales manager, sales is more than a job. It’s a passion – to prospect, find new business, exceed sales goals, and get that big bonus. That drive to succeed is one of the number one characteristics hoteliers want each of their sales managers to have.
“If they have passion and accountability, the other important traits usually fall into place,” notes Peg Grigolo, director of national sales for Portfolio Hotels & Resorts. “If you’re not driven then you’re not going to make the phone calls, you’re not going to bring in the business, your hotel is not going to be successful, and you’re not going to keep your job.”
Telesa Via is city director of sales & marketing for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants in the Washington D.C. area. She advises hotel executives to learn what best motivates each of their sales managers and then tap into that passion: “Get to know your sales managers as individuals so you can find out what drives them.” The more they feel rewarded and acknowledged for their successes, the better they will perform. With passion comes enthusiasm for the property you represent, says Luciano. “A hotel sales manager can do all the sales process things correctly, but if they don’t believe what they’re selling is truly good for the person they’re talking to, the person will pick that up straight away.”
In the interview, look for candidates who have true passion. Ask them why they like sales. The best people love it because they know they can compete and win – and that’s what they live for.
Not afraid of the phone
A person can have all of the above characteristics but if they’re not a good cold caller, they’re not going to be a great sales manager. In the end, it all comes down to being great on the phone. Even some of the most outgoing conversationalists out there look at the phone as if it weighs 40 pounds. The biggest people person can’t always translate their skills. The only accurate way of finding out whether a candidate possesses this ability is to see them in action.
That’s why at Knowland we put all our new hires on the phone on their very first day. Since we have a business development process in place to track our sales efforts, it becomes clear quickly whether or not a new sales person is up to the task. A good cold caller should:
- Be able to make 30 or more calls per day. This may seem like a huge number for some hoteliers but it is standard operating procedure for dozens of other industries!
- Embrace the phone as their friend. It may sound corny, but they shouldn’t need to be goaded into making their calls – they should enjoy it!
Being a great sales manager takes a special type of person. They either have it or they don’t. While finding the right people for your team is crucial, you don’t have an endless amount of time to spend picking through the mediocre. To quickly zero in on your best candidates, look for people who have all five of these qualities in abundance. Talented sales people combined with powerful business development software can have a tremendous impact on increasing group business at your property.