Identifying Customer Needs

customer needs

Hotel sales professionals establish customer needs.

Customer needs are best determined by subtlety and through an ongoing relationship, rather than blasting the client with direct questions about their needs. You are trying to determine their critical decision-making factors prior to entering the negotiation phase.

You will be much more successful if you negotiate for the things the customer needs rather than something that is not important to him or her.

Earlier this month I wrote about the need to master the steps of the hotel sales process and use the in proper order. Of the 5 steps listed, identifying customer needs will help you with the first three.

In hotel sales negotiations (or any negotiations) every potential client comes to the table with two lists. Their first list is their customer WANTS prior to signing a contract, and the second their customer NEEDS before they’ll sign a contract. Your task is to find out what they NEED. Anything above and beyond that is really just icing on the cake for them, but they really didn’t match their customer needs that you had to address to land the business.

So you absolutely must find out what their real customer needs are.

To do this you need to do your homework. A sales pro know that if you are talking on the phone with the customer about his or her event, you do not just come out directly and ask, “Tell me, what are your hot buttons?” You do not ask, “What are your decision making factors for this piece of business?” And please do not ask him or her “What’s it going to take for us to have you come to our hotel?”

Subtlety is the mark of the professional hotel sales person in determining customer needs.

customer needsThere’s no website you can go to that lists customer hot buttons. It takes research and homework and and asking the right questions. If the potential customer has history for this meeting, you can do some digging to come up with what they’ve needed or done in the past. It’s another of the denominators of great hospitality sales people: they do their homework.

As hotel sales pros, it’s our job to compile and understand customer needs as much as we can — either in advance or subtlety during the discussions. If you ask those direct questions above in your discussions, the client will think, “Really, you want me to tell you what you should tell me? Can’t you even be bothered to do a bit of homework?”

Instead, you can ask more nuanced questions such as, “What problems has the group had in the past?” That will definitely be one of their hot buttons. Then you determine how to help them solve the problem. Once the problem is eliminated, you’ve met a customer need. So in the course of your talks, do some detective work via questions. This helps identify the true customer needs that you can negotiate.

Then as you’ve developed some rapport and you’ve determined the true customer needs, you can proceed on to negotiations, where such direct questions are much more appropriate. At that point 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?” Those are perfectly suitable questions at that juncture. “It looks like we’re close, aren’t we. What will it take to get this thing signed today?” That’s a good question at that point. It’s a trial close that can be used then to uncover any prior undiscovered customer needs, but it only works during the close, not during the first three phases.

 

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