Should Hotel Sales Managers Involve Others?

Does a good hotel sales manager ask for permission?

Does the professional hotel sales manager make an effort to involve others (peers or superiors) when negotiating with clients?

Many hotel sales managers ask me this question. The answer is not a simple one.  In short, it depends on the situation, and as usual, how you handle it.

In America, the culture suggests that no one wants to argue with someone who they think knows more about the topic than themselves. In fact, many people are hesitant to get into a conversation with someone on a topic that they know little about.

But let’s look at it this way. As a hotel sales manager you’re probably pretty knowledgeable about your guest rooms and rates, as well as your hotel meeting rooms. So if you’ve told your client about those, or even negotiated them you’re cruising along just fine. But now it’s time to talk about the menus. At his point, the hotel sales manager can bring in the director of catering to participate. One approach would be to just have the catering director and the client sit down together and work those out. And that might work if the hotel sales manager had a long-standing relationship with the client. You may feel you can’t add a whole lot to the discussion when your catering director and client sit together, but by being at least a (relatively quiet) participant the hotel sales manager can show the client that he/she is there to look after the planner’s interests. The hotel sales manager might bring up something that the client forgets to mention, or share relevant information with the catering director about time constraints, locations, etc.

And the hotel sales manager can learn. If you’re new in this business, this is another outstanding opportunity to broaden your knowledge, particularly of what your hotel has to offer.

Finally, and this often happens at the end, the hotel sales manager can bring in the general manager to be part of the negotiations. This adds a great touch, and often when we get to this point of closing the business, we’d do this and call it “the turnover.” The GM can make virtually anything happen at the hotel, so they are a very powerful ally for the hotel sales manager in making the sales. And it also adds a great touch. You’re saying to the client, “We value you and your business so much, we want to have the head honcho in on this.”

But the one thing the hotel sales manager has to do when you bring in your general manager to assist with the negotiations: never let them talk about price. GMs get pretty excited about the deal. And then, depending on circumstances, the hotel sales manager and the GM end the meeting seeing the client walking out with the kitchen sink.

But what if you don’t involve other people in your negotiations and answered “No” to the first question I asked? Actually, that’s also a correct answer. The reason is that the hotel sales manager never wants to imply that you are not authorized to take care of business.

We’ve done lots of test calls for our hotel clients, and I hate it when we’re on one and the hotel sales manager says “I need to go check with my general manager” or “I need to go check with my director of sales.” And your clients hate that too.

Their attitude becomes “Why don’t you just get your director of sales and I’ll work with them, because apparently I have no need to work with you, the hotel sales manager. You’re not authorized, so get me someone who can help me.”

A professional hotel sales manager doesn’t make it difficult for the customer to say yes. Be careful about how you call someone else into the negotiations — be very careful.

We’re sharing lots and lots of tools here on the website and as you study them and become more proficient, you really should aim to  not have to ask the customer to hold while you go check with someone higher up. In the case of very odd or special requests you’ll have an exception, but that’s OK. The client should realize he or she is asking for something out of the ordinary, and the hotel sale manager needs to bring in a higher authority, so your need to get further input should not be a surprise or undercut your credibility.

Posted 5/7/12


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