Sources for hotel sales flat lists

how not to make a flat list

In my hotel sales training I often talk about the flat list. It’s a list of new, previously unsold accounts from which the hotel sales manager should make calls each day.

Here’s a hotel sales training confession that I feel compelled to share with you: I’m practically obsessed with hotel sales managers using a flat list. Remember, that the flat list is where you should be spending a significant portion of your hotel sales day — calling on new, unsold accounts.

But all flat lists are not created equal. I could give you a phone directory and tell you to begin your hotel sales efforts by going through the business listings and start calling your way through it. But I strongly suspect that you wouldn’t have many results to report at the end of your calls. It’s the classic (and dreaded) cold call.

Instead of calling people for whom we may not be able to offer any benefits, we want to make “warm” hotel sales calls to our flat list. We want to do research so that when we pick up the phone to call a prospective client, we know as much as possible about this person from a hotel sales perspective: if they use or refer hotels, their history, what they look for in a hotel, etc. The more specific we can get, the better prepared we will be.

And here’s a big caveat: The flat list is a perpetuating list so that whenever you call on one of the accounts you must replace it with another new one.

This begs the question of “What does a hotel sales pro use as sources for the flat list?”

One of the first sources for our hotel sales flat list would be to seek referrals from current customers. It’s a good business practice to contact your best clients on a regular basis, and not just to build your flat list. Call your current and past hotel sales clients to continue to establish personal rapport, see how you can meet their needs, ask them about their lives, etc.

A strong relationship with these people can really pay off in the long run. If you are close to your best hotel sales customers you should feel free to ask, “You’re a very satisfied customer here, aren’t you? And you know I always try to help you out in any way I can? Well, I was hoping you could help me out. We’re always looking for new hotel sales customers here at the hotel. Could you give me the names of other people that you may know in the organizations you are a member of (MPI, the state society of association execs, at PCMA, chamber mixers, etc.)? And if have a personal relationship with them, would it be okay to use your name?”

But remember, this will work best if you know the customer well, if not, it may be a bit presumptuous. It speaks to the need to bond with your hotel sales clients.

Our experience tells us that if these hotel sales customers know you well and think highly of you, they’re happy to give you that information. When they do, put that name on your flat list. This is the easiest phone call you’ll ever make when you have the path cleared in advance. “Hi, this is Steve Steinhart at the ABC Hotel. I just got off the phone with Mary Smith, and she said maybe I should call you.”

The skids are greased. Most folks would call this obtaining referrals or even networking. I call it a smart way to get great prospects for your flat list.

Another source for your flat list is your competition. Do you know who’s using your competitor? There are a variety of tools to help you with this research. Do you subscribe to Knowland Group and Insight?  Do you have the benefit of a Convention and Visitors Bureau? Is your hotel part of a national or regional chain with sales research support at that level? Do you know about the various databases that exist that tell about meetings past, present and future? There are amazing tools out there, and you should be able to get info from the web as well as Insight or some similar reader board capturing program. Otherwise you’re at a huge disadvantage.

So what do you do with this information? What’s the first thing you do when you see that Mega Corp. is using the Rose room at the hotel across the street and you have a meeting room the exact same size as the Rose Room? Put it on your flat list! The problem is, if you call it, you don’t know what to say, you don’t have anything to say, and here’s the key: most of us would get excited about finding Mega Corp. at the competitor’s Rose Room and we would call the customer and start talking…and you would have no idea what really to talk about. That’s where almost all salespeople make their mistake.

In order to make your call effective, you have to research the client, past meeting or bookings, etc. Only then will you be ready to call.

But that’s a topic for another day. For now, how many sources can you think of for your flat list?

When you’re just talking to the client, have you learned anything about how the prospect selects a hotel or what their decision-making process is?

Posted 8/14/13

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