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Effective Sales Training: We know what skills, but do we know the customers? by Leora Lanz and Edyth Shapiro

Often times, sales training includes interactive role play. When it comes to the topic of developing professional relationships, however, we need to be more forceful, so the manager tactfully and intelligently includes the true decision maker.

HVS Often times, sales training includes interactive role play and exercises to improve selling skills with regard to attitude, motivation, working smart, creative thinking, probing, and so on. When it comes to the topic of developing professional relationships, however, we need to be more forceful in our training, so the manager tactfully and intelligently broadens those relationships to include the true decision maker. Who is the true decision maker? How does the sales manager uncover where the business really generates from? Let’s talk about the corporate transient market, because in this category, there tends to be several layers of decision-maker.

The most familiar way to meet customers is by joining and attending industry functions or networking events and educational programs. Sales people should participate in the trade shows made available to vendors. You can also purchase meeting planner directories and use them to solicit business. The Association for Corporate Travel Executives (ACTE), for example, provides a directory which is chock full of leads for hotels.

Once all the key account and key prospect decision makers have been identified, the sales manager must determine where the business is truly coming from. Reviewing source city reports from the reservations department and from your TravelClick report is just the beginning. To insure you are speaking to the right people, consider the following:

• Study the annual reports from each of your key accounts and key prospects; identify all the key offices throughout the country or world and find out if those locations have people who travel to your area (the annual report is available on line);
• Don’t assume the local office will inform you when their colleagues are coming to your location and if they require rooms. We’ve experienced a situation with an account which had employees traveling to our client hotel’s location from overseas. The local travel office, in a US headquarters facility never revealed this information to the hotel sales manager. It was the annual report that indicated the opportunity for additional rooms business!!
• The sales team needs to be very familiar with the hotel’s feeder markets, but feeder markets are not always what they seem to be. Sometimes a city will appear on your report indicating Phoenix, for example, as a key feeder market for your hotel. The sales director must cross reference that information with their clients and with the annual report. Phoenix may be an airline ticketing office that simply serves as a processing center! The reservations may be coming from Seattle and that is where the team should be targeting.
• The sales team needs to know who is staying in the hotel. Daily, the sales managers should review the in-house guest list to see which companies are giving us business and use this data as sources for new leads;
• Collecting business cards at the front desk may seem so provincial, but too few hotels actually do it. What better way to collect contact information and see first hand who our guests are ? Remember we are collecting email addresses and other contact information to stay in touch with our guests; we want their business cards to identify new companies to solicit. To have your guests participate, perhaps offer a drawing for a gift certificate from a fine department store that is a national brand. Most people will be happy to share their business cards for the opportunity to win a gift certificate from Nordstrom’s or Sak’s Fifth Avenue. The sales department should do this once a month for a few months. The prospective client data base will grow and they will have identified more customers and have more companies to solicit.

The role playing, probing questions and other selling skills are only effective if you are in fact speaking with the decision-making customer.

About the author
Leora Halpern Lanz (Director of HVS Marketing Communications, and Senior Manager) joined HVS as its Director of Marketing in February 1999. She is responsible for the global marketing and external promotion of HVS’ growing office network and comprehensive hospitality services.
In February 2000, Leora launched HVS Marketing Communications, the firm’s sales, marketing and public relations consultancy. HVS Marketing Communications provides sales, marketing and public expertise for the hospitality industry. It was at the request of hotel executives with whom

Leora has worked that she established this service for HVS. Specialties of this service include: operational reviews; marketing plan development; sales/marketing assessments and audits; coordination with the property’s flag; sales action steps; pre-opening marketing; sales direction and training; and promotions including web marketing.

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