The economy grew by 2.2 % in the third quarter - not exactly a recession but a definite slow down in the leading economic indicators from the first two quarters. Those of you who follow the national trends in the Smith Travel Reports cannot help but notice that the demand figure has been somewhat delicate all year, with much smaller increases than those in rate. Demand actually began to track into the negative in September.
PKF is now predicting a 'soft landing' for the industry nationwide, still posting revenue increases in 2007, although not in the high single digits like 2006. This is a concern. In a recent study by PKF, it was demonstrated how increased revenue did not all fall to the bottom line due to 'expense creep', a trend that is likely to continue in 2007. 'While the resulting 9.7 percent gain in total revenue is certainly welcome, it is the 7.8 percent increase in operating expenses that concerns hotel owners and operators.' (R. Mark Woodworth, president of Atlanta-based PKF-HR.)
The temptation on the part of hotel operators may be to cut the training budget. Unfortunately, the metrics for measuring the effectiveness of training programs are typically somewhat 'fuzzy', making this an easy target. It never ceases to amaze that in seminar and training programs where reinforcement and follow-up are offered as part of the package, how few clients actually implement these steps that could assist them in measuring the effectiveness of the initial program.
With demand trending flat or into the negative percentages, the focus is beginning to shift back to the effectiveness of Hotel Sales departments. While sales cannot significantly impact 'expense creep', it is the one area that can impact demand. However, while skills set development and the effective use of new paradigms of sales need to be a focus for 2007 and beyond, it is imperative that any training be reinforced and metrics set to measure success in incremental steps.
If sales training is to have a shelf life beyond the impact of a sales training seminar, these are some of the metrics that will enable measurement:
- Seminar exercises that demonstrate that the participants 'got it': Every program should incorporate exercises and 'games' that allow the participants to demonstrate that not only did they hear the program, they can apply the tools that are contained in the content.
- Implementation Plans. It is up to management to follow up and ensure that the sales staff actually has a plan to implement the elements of the program that apply to their market segment and situation. Work with the training provider to establish them then follow-up with the sales staff. If it is not important to management that they apply these skills, it won't be important to the participants.
- Coaching and Mentoring. Coaching conference calls are a great way to reinforce and perpetuate the investment in a training program. Most good training providers will supply this as well as furnish management with a recap of the call and action steps. The completion of these 'action steps' is one metric of success.
- Blended Training Solutions. Instead of hoping that one seminar a year will magically transform the sales department into innovative demand generators, consider a series of seminars and reinforcement solutions that build incrementally on skill set development and sales processes. One 'off the self' seminar program wears off pretty quickly. No one has a training program that sprinkles training fairy dust that instantly turns 'apprentices' into masters'.
At the end of the day, incremental revenue is the ultimate metric. However, if you have a weak member of the sales team or a team that is resistant to changing the way they do things, the metrics of a training program should give you what you need to perhaps redeploy them.
Management spends too much time trying to correct deficiencies versus building on strengths. If you haven't read 'First Break All the Rules': What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman ask for it for Christmas. It can transform your skills as a manager!
The selling paradigm is changing in relation to one way our customers buy. (This will be the subject of next month's article). Take your best and your brightest and train them in the latest sales tools to position your property and sales team for success in 2007 and beyond!
Carol Verret And Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry. To find out more about the company click on www.carolverret.com. To contact Carol send her an email at email@example.com or she can be reached by cell phone (303) 618-4065.
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