The Universal Hotel Sales Problem: It’s Not What You Think

by Susan on May 1, 2014


One of the most fun and interesting things I get to do on a regular basis is work with hotel sales teams.  I get hired to consult when a hotel is going through a transition – changing flags, getting bought and sold, or otherwise making major changes in the way they do business.  I love the excitement inherent in the upheaval of transition.

Sales teams are gossipy under the best of circumstances and often totally paranoid loons when confronted with that kind of change.  I know from both personal experience and observation that doors are never closed more often in a hotel sales office than when a new owner has been announced or the Director of Sales and Marketing has left the building – permanently.  All of this turmoil and confusion makes it really hard to see the forest for the trees.

What do I mean by this?  If your association seller and your Director of Catering are behind closed doors trying to figure out whether “resigned” means fired or got busted in the laundry with a secret lover, they aren’t researching emerging vertical markets or digging into the reader boards from the hotel down the street.  They just want to know the dirt.

Meanwhile, there are seven thousand new spreadsheets to be completed, suspicions about who might be next, and recriminations galore.  Scary times, for sure, but also exciting.  There is no better time to see what’s broken than when everyone is looking elsewhere.

I poke my nose into all kinds of things, of course, and have a bunch of checklists for each discipline within a hotel’s sales operation.

  • Do the sales people know the major employers and industries in their area?
  • Can the sales managers rattle off their list of target accounts?
  • When was the last comparative menu survey completed?
  • Are there house rules that no longer make sense to enforce?
  • Has the leadership team set up revenue minimums and other booking guidelines for the sellers?

And on and on and on.  If you’ve been through even one property review in your career, you can probably guess most of the things I cover when consulting with a transitioning hotel.

But I bet you can’t guess the most pervasive, most recurrent, and most frustrating issue I uncover every.single.time I work with a hotel.

Different hotels have different weaknesses, but they all have one in common.  It’s simple.  Despite the thousands of budget dollars devoted to paying for them, sales teams do not use the tools they have.

  • Competitive intelligence tools like TravelClick’s Agency360 and the Knowland Group’s Insight provide almost everything a hotel needs to determine which accounts to go after, but sellers (and often their bosses) don’t know how to find the information.
  • Newmarket’s Delphi and other CRM software allow sales people to merge contracts and BEOs with a couple of clicks, and yet many hotels create a new document for every contract that gets sent out.  (Some hotels even print reports out of their CRM systems and then retype the data into another spreadsheet!)
  • Most hotel brands have internal resources for creating marketing materials, but the coordinator is still making blitz fliers using Microsoft clipart.  Every client in the world can look at a hotel website, but many hotels still spend thousands of dollars on paper collateral.  All hotels have email, but many still route paper copies of BEOs and group resumes.  You get the picture.

What’s the remedy?  Should you schedule more training, or only hire people who say they can use XYZ software proficiently?  Should you forward this article to the DOSM with a strongly-worded message about staying on top of this?  If you are the DOSM, should you saunter down the hall to find out if your folks are really as clueless as I say?

Leave your suggestions and feedback in the comments.

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