5 Things Hospitality Sales Professionals Need to Know About Distribution

By Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, CMM, HMCC, vice president of global sales for Red Lion Hotels Corporation and a member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

At HSMAI’s Fall Curate 2018 program last month, attendees identified distribution as a priority issue facing hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue-optimization professionals — while acknowledging in small-group brainstorming conversations that it’s been a major challenge for the industry for years now, with long-term solutions proving to be elusive. On a recent call for HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB), I led a conversation about what hospitality salespeople need to know. Here are five key takeaways: 

1. Defending sales. This came up on a previous SAB call, and was taken up again by an SAB member who noted that distribution “really hits home when we start discussing, how do we help salespeople help their ownership or asset teams find them relevant? You’ve constantly got that battle: ‘Where did that lead come from?’ ‘Well, it was a call-in.’ ‘Oh, all right, so you’re just answering the phone.’ We’re our own worst enemy, because we expect everybody to know what we’ve known for 30 years, or however long we’ve been in the industry.”

2. Tracking attribution. “The key is really trying to figure out how to use the distribution channels to monitor some of the indicators of what people are shopping for and buying,” one SAB member said. Another member added: “There are so many different ways that we can engage a potential customer or a guest, and we don’t necessarily measure the impact that sales had as well as we do other factors that we can track through Google Analytics or some other electronic method.”

3. Prioritizing content. I shared with the SAB my feeling that salespeople need to better understand the importance of content. Make sure it’s up-to-date across all your platforms, from your website to your booth to your social-media channels. And make sure it’s relevant — so, for example, a meeting-sourcing platform should have group content, not transient content. An SAB member agreed, adding that her company recently hired a B2B marketing manager — “and that person is irreplaceable. She does exactly what you described, creating content that gets pushed out to clients based on the different segments, to our various partners through LinkedIn, through our website, etc.”

4. Understanding data. “I think there’s a disconnect where the executive leadership understands [the data that gets collected from various distribution channels], understands the tools, and thinks that they’re giving great information to the sales team,” an SAB member said, “and then wonders why it’s not being utilized or put into practice.”

That tracks with another member’s experience. “I’ve got a report that tells you how many left-handed people checked in to your hotel last week,” the member said. “Fantastic. The question I ask every one of these sales folks: What do I do with the information? They say, ‘Well, you use it to market toward your customers.’ I say, ‘Nope, not deep enough. Exactly how do I use this to grow my business?’”

5. Selling socially. Referencing another recent SAB discussion, a member suggested that social selling — using social networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn to grow business — might offer a bridge between gathering and applying data. “That’s where you can get very granular and use very specific information,” the member said. “Probably it’s too specific for general marketing purposes, but it could be used for a narrower audience. Knowing those left-handed people, for example, salespeople could potentially find prospects, like the left-handed dart throwers convention.”

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles