Hotel Directors of Sales The Qualities for Leadership and Success - By Carol Verret

Business travel is projected to increase by 3.6% in 2004 and Internet bookings have risen by over 30%. How much has the production of the sales department increased? Given these statistics, many conventional (as opposed to convention) hotels have downgraded the role of sales and by extension, the role of the DOS.

Carol Verret This is unfortunate because the role of the Director of Sales is one of not only driving the generation of revenue but of leadership both in the sales department and within the rest of the operation. It is a critical position in every hotel whether it is a small, boutique hotel or a large group house.

In Australia, they have a saying -- the person in the middle is the "meat in the sandwich." If ever a description applied, it is the perfect description of the role of the DOS! Whether it is a one-person band as in a small hotel or the conductor of the symphony as in a large, convention hotel, it is a position that stands both between and for the sales staff and the rest of the operation.

We often promote a super sales person to the DOS position without taking into consideration that a "super doer" does not always make for a good supervisor. We also promote without taking into consideration leadership and diplomacy skills. This person must also have proven sales skills so that they have credibility as a mentor and coach to the sales staff. If the DOS wasn't trained well, the sales staff will not have a resource for advice on handling situations and accounts.

What then are the things to look for in an effective Director of Sales and how to ensure that what's on the resume is backed up in fact?

Sales Skills. The most obvious question, (and I really hate repeating myself), is can this person sell you? This is the visceral, gut reaction -- if you were one of your clients, would you buy from this person? Do they use their sales skills in the interview process -- do they qualify what the position entails, do they try to close you!? Do they negotiate benefits and salary indicating that they will negotiate the best deal for the hotel with clients? Don't make the mistake of asking two questions, spending an hour talking about yourself and thinking it was a terrific interview.

Coaching Skills. This is a hard one to pin down. Coaching is a skill that can be demonstrated but difficult to describe. Ask for an example of a coaching situation in which they were engaged with a staff member, how they approached it and the outcome. Bear in mind that coaching is related to but not totally encompassed by advising on a specific situation. Coaching skills can be measured, for example, when the candidate has hired a sales person with little experience in a market or the industry but was hired because they exhibited certain qualities that are intrinsic to success. The coaching comes in with training them to adapt to the situation. Ask for a reference to a former staff member -- there is nothing like listening to someone give a reference for a former boss.

Leadership Skills. Do they model behavior -- do they exhibit the same level of excellence from themselves as they expect from their staff in terms of work habits, relationships with other staff members, etc.? Conflict management and resolution skills are another important element of leadership. The ability to deliver bad news in an unambivalent but supportive manner. These are all hard to measure in an interview process. Ask for references to former associates from other departments who worked with them in the past. (Leadership and Managing Conflict is an entire training seminar)Ask them if they have attended a program on leadership skills.

Sales Philosophy. How do they approach sales -- what is their focus and philosophy on call activity, reporting procedures, cold calls versus using internet related skills and technology? Does that philosophy mesh with you and the company's philosophy? Do they hire people who will complement their goals or people who will be no threat to them? I remember taking on a new sales department as a DOS and, after conducting personal interviews with the staff, calling a sales meeting in which I indicated that I was disappointed in each of them because none of them had indicated that they wanted my job. How would I ever be able to move on to bigger and better things if I had no one to train to come up behind me? A good DOS encourages their staff to grow and develop both personally and professionally and provides the tools so that they can accomplish their goals.

A good Director of Sales welcomes accountability because they know that they and their department have exceeded expectations. They understand that the ultimate accountability for the sales effort lies with the DOS and they make no excuses -- they just get it done!

CVCT, Carol Verret Consulting and Training, offers consulting and seminars on incorporating and using e-tools to enhance productivity and functionality as well as revenue management and customer service. Our associate, Tony D'Angelo, specializes in HR consulting and seminars. Contact Carol at and log onto the company web site The company can be reached by phone at (303) 618-4065. Log on for info about live web casts and online training modules that also address these issues.

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