What do you do when you’ve spent the last 10 years taking inbound leads for granted — and you’re facing the possibility of an economic slowdown? Pivot to proactive selling. A new white paper from HSMAI and Knowland, Finding the Right Group Business, explains how. Read an excerpt below:
While meeting and events are among the many sectors that have benefited from a robust economy over the last 10 years, offering hotels a brisk pace of business and relative ease in making their group sales targets, signs now point to an inevitable slowdown in the U.S. hotel industry. Occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR have all grown in 2019, for example, but the numbers are below previous projections for the year. And with an over-supply in new-hotel construction creating a glut of rooms, the group sales process could become quite a bit more difficult. Hotels realize that their current group strategy, with salesforces simply trying to keep up with an onslaught of inbound requests, might not be up to the challenge.
With this nearly decade-long strong economy “we find that our sales approach is far more ‘catch and close’ versus prospecting,” said Lori Kiel, chief revenue and marketing officer for The Kessler Collection. This has meant that her team has had to travel less and deploy more of its resources responding to inbound leads. But the tides are shifting, and Kiel is already seeing a slowing in transient demand in 2019. “We have moved our group mix up at all of our hotels to make up the difference,” she said.
So why hinge success on market conditions? Why not set up your hotel to outperform the competition in all economic times? To do that, you need a proactive group sales strategy. Selling group directly and proactively is a paradigm shift in which salespeople pivot from simply focusing on third-party inbound digital leads to putting resources toward fostering a direct-to-planner business source. This strategy brings relevant groups to the forefront for hotels to reach out to directly, closing gap dates, boosting repeat business, and optimizing profits.
But getting to that point takes deliberate effort, in part because handling inbound lead volume is already a time-consuming activity. The advent of eRFP platforms has given hotels a seemingly bottomless source of leads. While such tools “have given us a platform to reach meeting planners without leaving the offices,” Kiel said, “the question to be asking is: How well are those leads converting and at what cost?”
Sales leaders are beginning to question whether they have the right sales strategy for long-term success. Hotels won’t simply be able to flip a switch to a proactive sales strategy once the economy has already turned, so it’s vitally important to invest in these changes now. Is your team trained up? Do you have the right solutions in place to enable this strategy? What do you need to do to support proactive selling — and are you even measuring the right outcomes?