Hotel sales training: excel at using the phone

Hotel sales training teaches phone use

Here’s some hotel sales training that seems basic: how and when to answer the telephone

We find that when we analyze hotel sales managers and inbound phone calls, there are some legitimate concerns. Let’s take a look at some of them.

You don’t need our hotel sales training to tell you that when you receive a call, it may include inquiries or requests from clients calling you. Those might come in via email, but let’s concentrate on inbound telephone calls for now. These calls  could be from an individual customer contacting the hotel sales manager, or it could be a third party. It could even be a lead from your local visitor’s bureau…well, it couldn’t be that, because we don’t ever get…

Just kidding!

Some local bureaus are very effective allies for the us. (We’ve given hotel sales training to many, so we know at least some are trained right!) We often blame them for our problems and usually that’s not accurate.

But back to the inbound telephone calls… We have spent lots of time studying the inbound telephone call to the hotel sales manager. In my hotel sales training company we do dozens of test calls every month to a wide variety of hotels out there:

  • giant hotels
  • little hotels
  • hotels with a lot of meeting space
  • hotels with no meeting space
  • rooms only events

We do these calls for our clients to help measure how well our hotel sales training “sticks.”

We’ve learned lots about inbound calls that way. We’ve also consulted with AT&T  on this — they’re real experts on the use of the telephone.


hotel sales training on phone useWhen an inquiry call comes into the sales manager’s office, obviously it’s not someone calling from upstairs wondering who will win the game this weekend; it’s a bonafide customer. How many rings should you allow before you answer that phone? The answer (drum roll, please): two and a half. If you can answer the phone within the second and third ring, it shows your professionalism and credibility. You’re projecting an image of an having a skill set that says I can answer the phone in a timely and efficient manner. It says “You should be comfortable trusting your event, your business, your group, or your travelers with me.” It’s often your very first chance to gain credibility. So it’s one way you can distinguish yourself from the competition – answer the phone between the second and third rings.

If you have to err on this, pick up the phone a bit early. So the second best answer for the hotel sales manager to answer between the first and the second ring. What we’ve found though is that the customer is actually rushed a little bit, possibly they’re still coughing, chewing, drinking their coffee or tea or whatever it is. So in general, you’re actually a little too soon.

If you pick up the phone between the zero and the first ring, it says “I’m desperate or not very busy.”

Here’s one for you: what do you call it when the telephone hasn’t even rung and you answer it? Clairvoyant, that’s what. I knew you were going to be calling! That would be ideal, but if you could do that consistently you’d probably want to take that act on the road…

But what image do you project when you pick up on the sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, or even fifteenth ring? It’s probably the worst image you can project. It says you can’t even answer the phone in a timely and efficient manner, so how could a client possibly trust your business, group, event traveler to you?

Avoid creating an image that you can’t even be bothered to answer the phone in a timely and efficient manner.

The professional does not need specialized hotel sales training to realize that ideally there is always someone available to answer the phone. Now I know that this is often more difficult in the smaller hotels. If you’re away from your office on outside sales calls (which you should be if you serve your local market), then who should be answering the phone when it rings in your office when you’re gone? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to have a catering manager, make sure he or she covers for you. How about your general manager? Depending on the size of the hotel, that may not be ideal as it may communicate that the general manager has no better use of his or her time than to be answering phone calls.

We recently read a good article in which they document a survey about customer attitudes towards their treatment on the phone. There are lots of great tips in there about putting customers on hold, etc., so check it out.

You probably have already gotten some hotel sales training that has taught you that if you can help it you really don’t want the missed call going into voice mail.

The silver lining about voice mail is that evidence suggest that if the customer knows you already, they probably are very comfortable with leaving you a message. But we have to give them that choice.

To be prepared to use voice mail in the most effective manner, see my earlier hotel sales training post about the need to change voice mail frequently and respond often.

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