Hospitality sales and identifying customer needs

hospitality sales questions

Hospitality sales people establish customer needs.

Hospitality sales pros know the proper timing for asking direct questions about client needs. The goal here is to ascertain all the critical decision making factors prior to sitting down to active negotiations.

Last month I wrote about the need to take the 5 steps of the hospitality sales process IN ORDER. This is a great example.

In hospitality sales negotiations (or any negotiation for that matter) every customer comes to you with two lists. Their first list is what they want before they’ll sign a contract, their second list is what they need before they’ll sign a contract. Your job is to find out what they need. After all, that’s all you have to offer. Anything else you offer is just goodies for them, but you really didn’t need to give them in order to land the business. You need to find out what they really need.

This becomes a matter of doing your hospitality sales homework and research. If you are doing a site inspection or discussing the customer’s event on the phone, you do not come out directly and ask, “Well, what are your hot buttons?” You do not say, “What are your decision making factors?” And don’t ask “What’s it going to take to have you come to our hotel?”

There are so many more subtle and professional ways to find out that information. There’s no website that says hot buttons. It takes a lot of homework and research and questioning. If the client has meeting history, do some digging to come up with what they’ve done or needed in the past. That’s a great way to show that you’re a hospitality sales professional who has done his or her homework.

It’s our job to find out as much about the answers to these questions as possible — either in advance or during the discussions in a subtle way. If in your discussions you ask those blunt questions above, the client will  look at you and think, “Come on, you want me to tell you what you should be telling me? You couldn’t even be bothered to do a bit or research?”

Once you get to the hospitality sales talks with the client, you can ask instead more nuanced questions such as, “What problems have they had in the past?” That’s their hot button. Then figure out how to help them solve the problem. When you eliminate their problem they don’t have a hot button anymore. So in the course of your discussion you play detective with your questions. This helps identify the client’s real needs during the negotiation. Their real needs will surface.

Then after you’ve developed some repoire, you’ve established the needs of the customer, and you’ve proceeded to the negotiating phase, such direct questions are much more appropriate. Then you can ask “What’s it going to take to have you come to our hotel?”or “what’s it going to take to get this contract signed?” At that point in the hospitality sales process those are perfectly suitable questions. “Well we’re close, aren’t we — what’s it going to take to get this thing signed today?” That’s a good question. It’s a great tactic to be used then to uncover any previously undisclosed needs on the part of the client.


Posted 4/1/13


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