Should We Move Toward Centralized Sales Departments?

By John Brich, Vice President at Searchwide Global and a member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

One of the biggest shifts in sales brought about by the pandemic is the increase in salespeople representing multiple hotels and working off-property. HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) discussed the pros and cons of this sales model as well as their personal experiences with it during a call on Aug. 13. Here are the key takeaways from our discussion:


Most SAB members agreed that while there are many things that easily can be done away from hotel, there are some aspects of the job that still need to remain on-property. “We can automate a lot,” one SAB member said. “But do we need someone on-property to do site visits and to go look at the local markets? One-hundred percent. We’re never going to want to get away from something like that.”

Another SAB member said that whether this model would is successful or not depends on the type of hotel. “Select service is much easier,” the member said. “I don’t know if you could do this with a collection of full-service hotels, because they’re probably not all in the same location. It just doesn’t work that way.”

One SAB member who has experimented with their team working off-site said that productivity has increased. “When we’re in the office, the sales team is attending safety meetings and housekeeping luncheons or chit-chatting with coworkers every 20 minutes,” the member said. “When you remove all of that, it’s amazing the amount of focus and effectiveness we are experiencing.”

“When you have salespeople on the property level, their soft goals such as teamwork or leadership deter you from being laser-focused on selling,” another SAB member said. “When you remove them from that environment, I think it just works better.”

On the other hand, general managers and owners may be unhappy when faced with salespeople who are representing multiple properties. “GMs might have two salespeople now that are repping three hotels that all want their fair share,” one SAB member said. “They don’t like the fact that they don’t have someone completely dedicated to them, that they can deploy to whatever they personally want to do.”


Just because someone is an excellent on-property salesperson doesn’t mean they will be great in a different position, several SAB members said. “This is where, a lot of times, we end up failing,” one SAB member said. “We take someone who is the sales manager of the quarter and tell them that they’re going to go home and now rep three hotels. All of a sudden, we’re finding out they’re not demand creators, they’re demand managers.”

“I’m not happy if a sales manager gets excited about booking a Christmas party on a Saturday night,” another SAB member said. “I don’t need someone to book a Christmas party in that market, I need someone to book a luncheon on a Monday.” A member added: “There’s a different skillset around proactive behaviors. Being honest about who you’re putting in these roles is vital for your success.”

One SAB member brought up the need to compensate salespeople fairly in order to get the best work from them. “If you theoretically have a sales manager working on commission, repping five different hotels, there are going to be some hotels that will be easier to sell,” the member said. “They cannot earn that same commission level by just selling the hotels in that cluster that are easiest to sell. It’s our job in leadership to make sure we’re providing them the resources so that they can equally rep and target business for all five.”

“It’s not just the money,” another SAB member said. “It has to be a part of the culture, too. We don’t want to create incentives to push sellers to sell the wrong products.”


As with many things in life, this isn’t an all-or-nothing situation, SAB members said. There are a lot of factors to take into account and many different hybrid models that could work well in different scenarios. “I just think we have to think through the tasks and look at look what is the stuff that could be moved off of property without affecting the value for our customers,” one SAB member said. “And then look at what would provide a negative experience for our customers if it is moved off-property.”

“I think we need to do a better job of understanding what really resonates with the customer,” another SAB member said. “Behaviors have changed, and I don’t think the question of whether a salesperson in in or outside of the building reflects all the ways behaviors have changed.”

But, if there ever was a time to move salespeople off-property, it’s now, one SAB member said. “I tried this a few years ago when business travel was at its peak and found it to be not successful in that environment,” the member said. “But today, there aren’t as many business travelers. The travel that’s occurring isn’t as location-centric, so I can have one regional office repping all five hotels in one market and putting them in the hotel that makes the most sense, because I have found travelers today to be more amenable to where they stay.”

“We haven’t changed the sales environment in our industry in a long time,” another SAB member said. “But I think right now, if you’re not doing this and you operate multiple hotels, you need to look at it, because there are opportunities to make more profit.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Categories: Sales, Sales Measurement
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