By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As part of Road to Recovery 2020, HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for hospitality chief sales officers in partnership with Clairvoyix, STR, and ZS on Oct 8. Roundtable participants choose the topics that they wanted to focus on; participating companies included Accor, Aimbridge Hospitality, Drury Hotels, Extended Stay America, Hilton Worldwide, IHG, Las Vegas Sands Corporation, Marriott International, Omni Hotels and Resorts, OYO Hotels Inc., Preferred Hotels & Resorts, Radisson Hotel Group – Americas, Red Roof, RLH Corp, and Wynn Resorts.
Here are key takeaways from the group’s discussion:
Every company is looking to get as much insight into the customer mindset as possible, with many companies launching their own efforts through consumer surveys, focus groups, roundtables, and phone calls to determine what they are thinking. Other companies are looking at outside data.
One roundtable participant mentioned the Events Industry Council as a source of real-time information about business in the meetings and events space. Other participants said they were looking at as many sources of data available both inside and outside of their organization. “It’s a difficult road with no clear path forward,” one participant said. “There’s not a collective view on when things will get back to normal, and with that comes a lot of customer uncertainty which leads to frustration.”
One participant said it is especially important to talk to on-property hotel staff to understand what they are seeing on the ground, because they are the ones interacting with customers on a daily basis. Customer behavior and preferences vary regionally, one participant noted, because everyone has experienced the pandemic differently. “For example, customers in New York City have a very different viewpoint than those in Texas,” the participant said, “because they have lived through the virus in different ways.”
THE TROUBLE WITH GOALS
Goal setting for the next year is a particular challenge, participants said. Because everything is so uncertain, everyone has different ideas on what to do. Indeed, several participants said that they currently have no goals at all.
One participant said that while there are currently no individual goals at their company, they do have team goals, which are smaller, giving them more latitude to deal with shifting markets. “It may not be possible to have individual goals next year,” another participant said. “Team goals might be the answer.”
Participants said that team members who rely on variable compensation have had to make significant sacrifices this year. One participant suggested making up for it at the end of the year with some sort of gift that demonstrates your appreciation for their work.
Other participants said that the lack of solid goals makes it especially important to have governing principles that help keep everyone on the same page, particularly when bringing back employees who have been furloughed for a long time. “When everything is so uncertain and the target keeps shrinking, you need to align on the governing principles going forward,” one participant said. “Make sure you can help salespeople focus but remain fluid.”
THE FUTURE OF SALES COMPENSATION
Every company is in a different place when it comes to compensation. Some are back to full salaries, while others are at reduced rates through at least the beginning of next year. Several roundtable participants said that their owners have expressed interest in going to a fully variable/commission-based pay model, but none of the participants were interesting in doing that.
Participants said that they are mostly working to bring their part-time employees back on full-time before bringing back laid-off or furloughed employees. Several participants stressed the need to focus on what is happening today, instead of thinking too far in the future. “We need to look at our current plans and make changes based on what we see today,” one participant said. “There should be a short-term component and a long-term component, so you can focus on short-term business while still continuing to build a base, which is so important.”
“We’re focused on what’s happening now,” another participant said. “So, let’s figure out how to calibrate our thresholds based on what works for everyone involved, and make it fit where we are today.”
Another participant said their company was considering shortening pay cycles to make sure employees are able to meet their goals and still get paid. “Our annual goals are not going to work,” the participant said. “So, it might make more sense to make them quarterly achievements instead.”
Another participant said they were considering how much variable compensation is acceptable. “We’re considering creating more categories than in the past, with a lower base and more upside for those at a reduced pay,” the participant said. “If people are performing well, they’ll get a chance to make more money.”
(Read takeaways from HSMAI’s previous CSO virtual Executive Roundtables here, here, and here.)
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.