How Ongoing Education, Training, and Coaching for Sales Staff Can Help Address Challenges

By Pat Kobela, Regional Director of Sales at Chartwell Hotels, HSMAI Sales Advisory Board Member

The HSMAI Sales Advisory Board recently identified the following as some of the top issues facing the sales discipline:

  • Keeping sellers motivated
  • Improving seller business acumen (mining and actioning data points)
  • Managing smaller teams and fewer resources
  • Being more efficient in finding business

All these challenges can be positively impacted by ongoing education, training, and coaching. We dove into this topic through a series of discussions, focusing on exploring three big questions.

1. What are we giving our sales staff — in terms of tools, education, training, and coaching — to help them meet their goals?

The consensus among the group was that yesterday’s best practices are not today’s best practices. Education and training are challenging now, with limited resources and no budget for hiring outside trainers. Plus, we’re in an emotional and challenging time, particularly for those who were furloughed and have returned to work, and for those who worked throughout the worst of the pandemic without a break. Some people have forgotten policies and best practices and need to be reacclimated.

One advisory board member’s company does a training series twice a month. They surveyed their people about training and education needs, then found experts on those topics within the company to conduct the sessions. There is one for sellers and one for catering and servicing each month. Topics include negotiations, overcoming objections, how to deal with sports groups’ commissions, etc.

Holding weekly sales meetings with each team can also be helpful, in addition to using your brands’ educational programs, and keeping up with content in trade journals and on LinkedIn to use those topics as conversation starters.

Another point that arose during the discussion is that it’s important to consider that many salespeople have never worked in a down market before and don’t know how to sell in this environment, specifically to those markets that currently have demand. Getting back to the basics, using roleplaying, and ensuring new hires have ample training time were recommendations that the advisory board put forth.

2. Do sales staff — not just the leaders — have the information and authority they need to make business decisions? If not, what should change?

Autonomy is key as some staffs are still short and others have people who are out sick. Decision-making processes may need to be reconsidered in light of our “new normal.” Also, people are feeling beat up, one advisory board member pointed out. “GMs tend to look only at the bottom line, not considering long-term customer relationships.” The business that hotels are getting now is business from people who we have relationships with.

Another point revealed how salespeople feel revenue management staff questions their decisions on cancellations and bookings. One member suggested putting a cancellation clause in the contract, but “if you need to waive the fee at cancellation to keep a good relationship, do it.” Brands are being flexible with contracts, as one member mentioned, so we should follow their lead at the property level.

3. How much do we encourage salespeople to be better educated about issues in and related to the sales discipline such as revenue management and marketing?

While sometimes other departments can be territorial, it’s important to understand the challenges and nuances of our colleagues’ work. Some people might take it upon themselves to get educated and then report what they learned to their colleagues, while others may not know what to do with this information. Set up a weekly meeting to discuss this content, as well as team progress and successes. Scheduling a monthly videoconference can help build camaraderie, as more people are working from home.

It’s also important to make sure people know what resources and opportunities are available to them. One sales leader in the group tells her team to block one hour per week to enrich themselves — and it does not have to be directly related to work (e.g., yoga!). She models this, so they know it’s OK to do it. It’s a reminder that when everyone is empowered to better the company, they will do.

Categories: Sales, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles