By Alan Kilker, Senior Sales Executive, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
More than ever in group/convention sales, relationships count. As we think about the interactions we’ll be having with our valued clients as we all get back in the office, energized to restart business as usual, it’s important as hotel sales professionals that we remember that everyone has been through some trauma associated with COVID-19. While some have been affected more than others, we must be sensitive and compassionate as we build up our sales teams professionally and emotionally and work to put business back on the books.
For me, imagining what this looks like comes down to a list that I’ve developed and plan to keep mentally handy as a daily reminder. I’m also sharing it with colleagues who will join me in stepping back into an industry that has been hard hit in a way that none of us could have foreseen. Here’s my take on getting back to business:
1. Show genuine concern. We need to understand and empathize with the current health and economic conditions of the meetings industry.
2. Remember, it is about partnership. Confirm and continue to build those close, personal partner relationships that are important today and in the future.
3. Keep what’s best for both parties foremost in mind. It is a two-way relationship, and that’s often what turns business partnerships into lifelong friendships.
4. Maintain honesty and integrity in all communications. Being a trusted resource for your clients means full transparency.
5. Stay in touch and be persistent, but be patient. Sales professionals shouldn’t be pushy or inconsiderate. Work closely with planners to clear away any obstacles to moving forward; ask yourself what you can do to assist them.
6. Reinforce the value of working together. Through collaboration, both parties are helping each other keep convention business moving forward. By maintaining our mutual commitment to the future, both parties’ needs and objectives can be met.
7. Remind clients that future meetings require planning now. Acknowledge that planners have had to handle frustrating short-term challenges, but urge them not to forget about the long-term health of their organizations. The future will be here before they know it, and working together, you can ensure that their meeting plans are set and secure.
8. Be reasonable and your clients will return the favor. We can continually show the hospitality industry’s commitment to the meetings industry by offering honest, reasonable, and suitable terms and conditions, so both parties win any negotiations.
9. Put yourself in your clients’ shoes. Many parties are involved with meetings decisions — especially now. Boards of directors, committees, and others often provide input or vote on meeting destinations and other planning details. By going out of your way to be helpful and asking your contacts directly, “What can I do to assist you in moving this decision further ahead?,” you will be providing support and assistance that will elevate their meeting decision as a top priority.
10. Offer a positive vision of the future. Be generous with assurances that by booking future business now, your clients are playing a big part in the entire convention industry’s recovery. A mutual commitment will bring the hospitality industry back to work full force, assuring its financial health and future. Show the benefits of securing great dates before first choices are snapped up.
I always sell with two key ingredients at the forefront: empathy for the needs of my clients, and years of honed business acumen that keeps my eye keenly trained on the responsibilities I have to my property and to my sales team. While these 10 reminders likely won’t fundamentally change the foundation of how many of us do business, they may recharge our conviction that the services we provide our clients are highly customized to prioritize their safety and comfort. And, of course, sitting with my clients — whether virtually or in person — I will begin each interaction by acknowledging that their meetings are crucial gatherings that are often at the center of their organizations’ heart and culture.
So, what is my job today, in a world still fraught with pandemic worry and uncertainty? More than ever, it will be to continue to make my clients’ meetings relaxing, educational, joyful, and comfortable — and an experience where their teams, association members, and leadership are truly positioned to excel through today’s challenges and beyond.
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.