By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As part of its Confronting Coronavirus: What’s Next? webinar series, HSMAI hosted a sales-focused program on April 7 called “Staying Proactive.” Ed Skapinok, immediate past chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board, and Amy Infante, CEO of GitGo, presented research and opinions on what hospitality sales professionals can focus on to drive the quickest recovery possible:
1. Mitigate the effects of the current situation. Both Infante and Skapinok mentioned that it is difficult to sell right now because there is a risk of coming off as insensitive, but it is necessary and can be done right. “Proactive sales should never be looked at as a pitch,” Infante said. “It’s discovering if the companies are a good fit. We won’t get immediate business, but we can gain a relationship for the next piece of business.”
“If responding to leads is all your team is doing, that concerns me,” Skapinok said. “The work being done by sales teams today determines how quickly you’ll recover. The time to be selling hardest is right now. Regardless of demand, are you doing a good job capturing what there is?”
Infante agreed, noting that now is the time to focus on proactively selling and developing business. “Just because things are changing doesn’t mean sales should be giving up,” she said. “Companies appreciate the adaptability of sales teams.”
2. Don’t forget the fundamentals. Infante’s company, GitGo, did a deep-dive study in December that focused on the B2B buying cycle over the past three years in order to understand how long it takes to sell. The study looked at 500,000 connection points in small and midsized companies and found that on average it took seven months between the first positive engagement between a hotel and a client and when the client brought their business to the hotel. We can learn from this, Infante said.
“We can all agree the immediate reactive business model has come to a halt,” Infante said. “So now is the time to embrace these fundamentals in a sustainable matter, so we can always impact business no matter the immediate economic concern.”
Skapinok said that salespeople need to remember what they are here to do and how to sell with their customers’ best interests at heart. “When you reach out, set up a phone or video call, invite them to schedule a time to meet, don’t just bombard them,” he said. “You’ll be respected as organized and professional, and get a better result.”
“If you’re a sales leader,” Skapinok added, “reflect on making your team more efficient and effective. What have you learned from this experience about your systems and optimizing performance? Invest time in your skills and your team’s skills.”
3. Prepare to bounce back. While many companies have been forced to lay off or furlough salespeople, Skapinok said that they should avoid doing this if at all possible in order to be in a good position in the future. “Don’t furlough people unless absolutely necessary,” he said. “If you let the best people go, they will go away to other industries and companies. Try to rotate staff using mandatory PTO, consolidate or share resources, converge disciplines, avoid talent drain.”
Building relationships with future clients is another important step salespeople who are still working can be doing right now to prepare for the future. “Approach this as an opportunity to learn what is going on,” Infante said. “Ask them what travel normally looks like and what they normally need. These conversations will eventually transfer to cash for your hotel.”
“We are hearing across the board, businesses are not playing to survive, they are playing to win,” Infante said. “And they’re looking to have conversations now as they are planning their own growth recovery. Everyone is eager to get back on pace for the year, so now is the time you should be connecting.”
Watch the entire HSMAI Confronting Coronavirus: What’s Next? webinar “Staying Proactive: Spotlight on Sales” here. For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.