Build a Better Mousetrap…21 Ideas for Innovating Direct Hotel Sales

If your hotel(s) is looking to reduce the cost of sales, improve profitability, and fight commoditization in the minds of your guests, innovation is a must. To reach those end results, we have to look at everything – from recruiting and talent development practices to the business acumen of our sales force to performance measures to our sales practices and alignment with operations, revenue management, and ecommerce – all while reducing costs.

From incrementally easy ideas to longer-term strategic efforts, consider these recommendations from HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board.

Structural/Sales Office

  • Rethink the traditional sales staffing model, if we pretend today’s structure doesn’t exist and had to design the hospitality industry sales force today, what would it look like?
  • Find your unicorn. How can you develop DOS’s that have a really good integration of sales & RM experience and knowledge?
  • Integrate revenue management into sales meetings (if you aren’t already) – and focus on educating across the disciplines.
  • Adapt incentive pay toward incremental revenue generated. Skew incentive pay away from “leads responded to.”
  • Hire a Lead Catcher/Evaluator, or add the responsibility to an existing staff person, to role review all incoming online RFPs (Cvent, 3rd party intermediary, etc.) and assesses them for quality to fit into the hotel’s group parameters for dates, space, and rates.
  • Hire a Function Space Optimizer, or add the responsibility to an existing staff person. This person rules the hotel’s function space in order to align the client needs for function space while optimizing the utilization of function space and the revenue each room generates.
  • After careful analysis of your existing sales department structure, consider re-deployment to create one (or more) Sales Coordinator positions to focus strictly on research and solicitation of source city/source market business. This role is responsible for soliciting potential source city business via internet research and telephone solicitation. When accounts with potential business are uncovered, these tangible and pre-qualified leads should then be passed along to the more experienced Sales Manager responsible for this segment or market for further and more personal solicitation. The desired outcome of this strategy is to add an element of pure research and tele-sales solicitation to a sales department, and also to maximize the use of more experienced salespeople by enabling them to spend more time on qualified leads and less time on the research and qualification process. Ultimately, the sales department will end up with a higher volume of targeted solicitation calls while also maximizing the time of its more experienced salespeople to focus more on bona fide business opportunities.

Leveraging Technology

Technology is moving faster than our sales processes. We need to start innovating here or we’ll be left in the dust.

  • Push groups greater than 9 rooms to book online. The brands should be investing in doing this themselves to try to beat other interests to market.
  • Ensure that sales managers use social selling tools (LinkedIn, hotel Facebook page, etc.) to link to new contacts, to gain closer contact with new prospects, and to deepen relationships with current customers.
  • Use LinkedIn to find prospects as well as connect with new potential customers. Make sure each sales person’s LinkedIn Summary showcases who they are as an individual and why they are in their current position.
  • Use video conferencing such as Skype or Facetime for site tours when a client cannot come see the hotel. Get the hotel staff involved to be part of the tour and introduce them on screen as the tour is going on throughout the hotel.
  • Use re-targeting. Think about the last time you shopped for anything online. That product chases you everywhere you visit for about a week. We should be able to do the same thing on leads. Once your customer has looked at your proposal, he/she should get reminders about it every few days to help push them back to you for a conversation.

Leverage the Personal Touch

  • When sending out proposals or introductions to new clients by email have sales managers include their bio with a picture of them as well as a few personal facts so the clients get a better idea of who they are working with.
  • Have sales managers write an actual hand-written note to clients (birthday, anniversary, thank you for booking my hotel, etc.). Everyone is so electronic these days – simple old-school TLC will gain you customer appreciation.
  • Use storytelling as part of the sales call process to entice trial and usage of new and existing customers (rather than traditional NBF!)



  • Utilize sales system technology to prompt the right call with the right message to the right customer at the right time in the right delivery method (to paraphrase an oft used revenue management phrase).
  • Assess client preferences/style to tailor presentations, gifts, invitations, etc. in a way that is meaningful to the individual.
  • Train our sales people to find solutions to our customers’ unique issues. We spend too much time finding the right date pattern available at the customers’ price point and not enough time determining what our customer is trying to accomplish. Some bookings are transactional, some are tied to larger initiatives in markets (like citywide events), but there is a healthy amount of individual bookings that can help make the difference for a hotel. We have to teach our sales people how to recognize those and capitalize on their properties’ advantages.


Cross-Discipline Collaboration

  • Understanding how to translate “this isn’t good business for us” into the right verbiage to further the relationship with the client rather than damage it.
  • Have your DOS partner with ecommerce and revenue management to work as a team to put together compelling offerings to generate/stimulate demand during slow periods either through meeting packages or leisure/transient packages.
  • Adopt total hotel revenue management practices to diagnose the perfect business pattern as a directional method of identifying prospecting opportunities.

In Memorium

This article is dedicated to the memory of Michael Smith who was most recently Vice President, Sales and Marketing for JHM Hotels. Michael was a dedicated member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, and a respected sales and marketing professional with over 38 years in the hospitality industry. He will be missed.

About HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board leverages insights, emerging trends, and industry innovations to fuel sales for hotels. Members include:

  • CHAIR: Ed Skapinok, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Hostmark Hospitality Group
  • C. Becker, Principal, Titan Group of New York, LLC
  • Brian Burton, CHSE,CRME, Vice President Revenue Strategy & Optimization, White Lodging
  • Michelle Crosby, CMP, National Sales Manager, Allied PRA Dallas/Fort Worth
  • Katie Davin, CHSE, Associate Professor, Johnson & Wales University-Providence
  • Lisa Giaimo, VP of Sales & Marketing, OTO Development LLC
  • Linda Gulrajani, CRME, Vice President, Revenue Strategy & Distribution, Marcus Hotels & Resorts
  • Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, CMM, VP, Global Sales, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group
  • Melissa Kouvelas, Senior Manager, Worldwide Sales, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
  • Joel Pyser, Senior Vice President, Sales, Newmarket, an Amadeus Company
  • Larry Silman, Director of Strategic Sales, Americas, IDeaS – A SAS COMPANY
  • Ronald Taylor, Vice President of Sales and Development, WCG Hotels
  • Jim Vandevender, Chief Marketing Officer, The Knowland Group
  • Christine Wight, Director of Resort & Conference Sales, Angel Fire Resort
  • Tony Yeung, Principal, ZS Associates
  • Holly Zoba, CHDM, Senior Vice President Of Hospitality Sales, Signature Worldwide

Categories: Sales, Sales Strategies
Insight Type: Articles