By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As silos are being destroyed and sales, marketing, and revenue optimization become more intertwined, each segment can learn from the others. Cindy Novotny, managing partner at Master Connection Associates, shared sales tips that hospitality revenue professionals can also take advantage of in a presentation titled “Are You Ready to Start Selling Again?” as a part of HSMAI’s virtual ROC@Home event on June 17.
1. Figure out who you want to be. The most crucial part of thriving throughout the pandemic is to be creative, which starts by taking a step back from who you were, clearing the slate, and clarifying who you want to be. “We have to get ourselves back in the game, regardless of what you’re selling and what country you’re selling in,” Novotny said. “We need to start by having clear intentions — defining what we are trying to do and who we are going after.”
The customer you are trying to attract may have changed since the pandemic started, Novotny said, but that’s not a bad thing — it’s an opportunity for reinvention and a chance to push yourself harder. “This is your opportunity to redefine yourself for the future,” Novotny said. “Even if you work for a company, think like an entrepreneur and think about what can do.”
2. Stay openminded and get creative. After you figure that out, Novotny said, let yourself be open to new ideas. One of the most creative things that Novotny said she’s seen during the pandemic has been travel advisers hosting summer camps for kids at resorts, since most traditional summer camps in the United States are closed. “Stop saying, ‘We don’t do it like that here,’” Novotny said. “Be open, optimistic, and push yourself harder than you ever have before. I’ve seen more creative things come out of this than I ever would have dreamed.”
Novotny knows first-hand how to successfully pivot a business. The popular upscale restaurant she owns in Los Angeles was forced to shut down overnight at the beginning of the pandemic. “We had to figure out how to turn a fine-dining restaurant into takeout,” she said. “We had to make a takeout window and figure out a way to sell bone-in rib-eyes to go. We had to make do and we did. Even on Easter and Mother’s Day, we made more money than on New Year’s Eve last year.”
3. Accept the new reality. Even as Novotny’s restaurant has begun to reopen at a reduced capacity, it’s planning to continue offering takeout because it was so successful. “The key to success is finding new business,” Novotny said. “We had to stay in front of our customers and keep a smile on our face, and that led to our takeout business now exceeding our in-dining revenue.”
More changes are coming even as businesses begin to open back up, especially around meetings and events, which are being downsized. However, Novotny said, this isn’t something that should bother you; instead, you should focus on the ways you can make it into a successful hybrid event, such as a livestreamed wedding. “They will pay for livestreaming if you organize it,” Novotny said. “You can even work with restaurants near the grandparents who aren’t able to attend the wedding and deliver them food, so they’re still a part of it. Hybrids aren’t just for corporate business — you just have to be clever about it.”
Novotny also recommends working with local businesses for the benefit of everyone involved. “You have to make sure you’re working with local bakers and florists and musicians, and bring your town back to life,” she said. “Even corporate customers are not going to fly in entertainment anymore. They will want to use local, and look to you for a recommendation.”
4. Don’t give up. At the end of the day, Novotny said, the most important trait to have is persistence. The only way any of us are going to weather this situation is to keep plugging away and not lose momentum. “Coming out of this medically is different than coming out of it psychologically,” Novotny said. “When borders start opening up again, do you have what it takes to stand up, show up, and make sure the customer will remember your name? Do you have that motivation, persistence, and innovation?
“It doesn’t matter how smart you are, how many degrees you have, how many languages you speak,” Novotny said. “What matters is having the persistence to be resilient and being able push through the storm. That is the only thing that matters. That is the only thing that’s going to get us out of this.”
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