By SiuYin Ko, Senior Corporate Director of Global Sales, Rosewood Hotel Group, and a member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board
My colleague Nicole Young, CRME, is the senior corporate director of global revenue management for Rosewood Hotel Group, vice chair of HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board, and a recipient of HSMAI’s 2019 Revenue Optimization Professional of the Year Award. In other words, she knows revenue optimization. Recently, I facilitated a discussion during a call with HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB) in which Nicole answered questions about the relationship between sales and revenue leaders.
What do sales leaders need to know and understand about the role of data in revenue optimization to constantly improve and refine their skills?
“There’s an important distinction between revenue and data,” Nicole said. “They are two completely separate things.” Historically, she explained, sales has been reliant on data provided to them from other disciplines, particularly revenue management, but when you look at the core of the sales function and the data that drives it, it’s very different from what revenue optimization looks at.
“As sales leaders, the important thing is that data is a party where you don’t want to be the last one to show up,” Nicole said. “What I’m hoping to see within the industry is evidence of sales organizations independently taking ownership of the data and analytics. They need to make their decisions and not be dependent on fitting data that already exists within organizations to suit them.”
Nicole added that while the industry has been on an upswing in the past few years, even if sales are good, profits are not. She suggested that this partly explains why revenue optimization tends to drive the pressure toward sales organizations — and why both groups feel pressure that a healthy top line is not enough.
How do we ensure that we don’t lose sight of the customer as hotels continue to optimize pricing and look to drive profit as well as revenue?
According to Nicole, this is where data really comes into play, because organizations have so much of it that tells customers’ stories in an unbiased way. But, she added, there are also great resources from third-party sources that can help validate the voice of the customer. “As the industry becomes more sophisticated, we should look towards the more commercial retail environments where personalization has been made possible because of all the data that we have available to us,” Nicole said. “Our customers are speaking to us in our industry through the exact same methods, we just maybe haven’t had the emphasis on harnessing that and turning it into usable nuggets for our sales strategies.”
Companies also need to better communicate through data internally, she said. Revenue managers can only evaluate the information they have available, so when additional metrics and information comes in, that changes the way they evaluate sales. Because of that, it’s important to sell not just externally, but internally, within the organization. “Every piece of business, you almost have to sell twice,” Nicole said.
An SAB member asked if there is a way to streamline the selling process, to avoid selling twice. Nicole replied that transparency and consistency throughout an organization help a lot, so sales professionals can handle their own evaluations with less conflict. Another tactic she suggested is taking a look at any automated systems that are being used, to make sure they are appropriate and can inform the sales process from the sales manager’s point of view.
How will the next economic downturn adjust revenue strategies in the short term or long term — and how can sales leaders prepare for this adjustment?
“Even though we’ve got a lot of strong indicators in our economy, there is this desperation where no one believes it’s really going to continue,” Nicole said. She pointed out that publicly traded companies are trying to squeeze out as much profit as they can while times are healthy.
Nicole suggested focusing on efficiency. Specifically, she said, revenue professionals are looking to educate partners in sales and marketing to focus on technologies and automations that help boost profit, and on being lean to help ease tensions when the economy is less favorable.