When Laura Dinu received the HSMAI Hotel Sales Professional of the Year Award in the Above-Property category — presented at HSMAI’s Mike Leven Leadership Conference in March — it was the just the latest stop on a career path that stretches back more than 20 years. Director of groups and meetings – global sales Americas for IHG, Dinu talked to HSMAI about cross-functional collaboration, the evolution of hospitality sales, and her advice for young hotel professionals.
What was your first job in the hospitality industry?
My first job was as an assistant in social catering at the Pan Pacific hotel in San Francisco [today the JW Marriott San Francisco Union Square]. I have always worked in hospitality, and this is where my passion for the industry began. I had a great leader who taught me about the importance of the customer, service, and creating memorable experiences.
What do you like about working in hospitality sales?
There are so many facets within hospitality sales, but one area I’m most excited about is the cross-functional collaboration it takes to be successful. I enjoy being part of a team with the same growth and strategy goals for our accounts and working daily with our hotels to ensure we deliver the right business at the right time — plus, the day-to-day engagement with customers to create mutually beneficial outcomes and solutions.
How has hospitality sales changed during the time you’ve been part of it?
I’ve been doing this for well over 20 years, so the first thing that comes to mind is the technology changes. We’ve also evolved our approach to sales, moving from strictly relationship selling to leading with insights. We focus on knowing and understanding the customer’s business and objectives for their company and providing solutions they may not have considered.
Is there a new innovation in the hospitality industry that you’re particularly excited about?
For IHG specifically, it’s our cloud-based reservation system IHG Concerto, but I’m excited about the overall investment in technology in the industry. While we’ll never move away from human interaction, these advancements will enable us to build more efficiencies around customer service and revenue delivery.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering a career in hospitality sales?
Become indispensable to your customer! Never stop learning, and be open to every opportunity. The more knowledgeable you can be about every aspect of the industry, the more value you’ll bring to interactions with your colleagues and customers.