2009 is going to be a game changer! The end of 2008 has lead to period of transformation in many areas of business – the government rescue of legacy industries that will be transformed by the aid they seek, consumer behavior transforming from conspicuous consumption to value experiences and business processes that can no longer succeed on the assumptions of the last 5 years. Hotel sales and marketers cannot assume that business processes will ‘snap back’ into the same model that worked for the past several years when the economy recovers.
Scott Anthony in the Harvard Business Publishing Weekly called the current economic cycle the ‘Great Disruption’ and went on the say that ‘In 2009, managers will realize that they are no longer dealing with a crisis, they are dealing with a condition.’ Jeff Stibel in a post entitled 2009 Will Be an Economic Engine for Change in the same publication postulates that ‘… 2009 is shaping up to be a trigger for an unprecedented surge of innovation.’
It’s about figuring out what will provide optimal value to customers in your product/price segment. Value isn’t a price point – what is value to a $99/night customer is not the same as value to a $500/night customer. However, you can’t expect customers to immediately pay a premium, unless you give them a good reason to do so.
Jill Konrath, in an eBook entitled ‘The One Piece of Advice You Can’t Generate Leads Without’ (RainToday, 2007) provides a hint on what this innovative value transformation is all about – the customer. ‘Occasionally a savvy marketer or seller captures my attention. … What are they doing? They are completely focused on my business and the impact they can have on it. That’s what’s relevant to me – not their offering.’
Selling into this transformative economy will require innovation and transformation of sales processes not only in the hotel industry but all other industries as well. The processes of targeted prospecting, pre-approach qualifying and strategic approach development will take precedence over blindly contacting a fixed number of warm or cold prospects based on the assumption that even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.
What then does this transformative innovation look like?
Clarity of Vision. Be very clear on which potential new customers will find value in your product. Narrow the focus to laser in on those customers — leisure, meeting planners, etc, that are more likely to be of high value to the hotel. Understand what value means to these potential customers or prospects – remember value is not a price point. Set a goal for how many new business prospects you will locate in a week.
Do the Research. Once you have identified a set of new prospects, do the research. Who are they? Which facilities have they used in the past? What is the economic condition of their industry? How is their business model changing in light of the economy – how can you plug into their new realities and provide value to their experience?
Develop a ‘killer’ approach. The approach is the least mentioned and most neglected of all sales processes but it is probably the most important. If you don’t capture their attention in the initial approach, you may not get another shot at reaching them. Whether by email or phone or referral, have a message that appeals to their business process improvement, their leisure experience — whatever segment they are in, however they are approached, the principles are still the same.
Measure Results. The three steps above assume innovation in the prospecting to approach process. This innovation is more time consuming than obtaining a list and calling or contacting at random. Hence, it assumes fewer but more qualified contacts to new business prospects. Management needs to align itself with quality not quantity but the strategy needs to demonstrate pay off. Measure the call to closing ratio, measure the average revenue per customer or group.
Good sales people welcome innovation! Don’t get stuck in the same way you were doing business last year and the year before – embrace the change. Are you ready to play the new game of sales?
Carol Verret And Associates Consulting and Training offers training services and consulting in the areas of sales, revenue management and customer service primarily but not exclusively to the hospitality industry.