By Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, Vice President of Global Sales, RLH Corporation, and chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board
As the coronavirus rages on, it continues to dominate most conversations between hospitality professionals, including members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board’s (SAB), who participated in a call on April 9. Their discussion focused on keeping salespeople employed now to bring in future business — and what that future business could look like. Here is a recap of our discussion.
KEEPING SALESPEOPLE EMPLOYED
“I don’t know anybody in the sales discipline in my network that hasn’t been affected by a layoff or a furlough at this point,” one SAB member said. “And then, for those of us that get left behind, you have that challenge of quickly having to solution and keep business continuity.”
As several SAB members mentioned during the call, sales jobs have been some of the first casualties of the coronavirus, and many salespeople who haven’t lost their jobs yet are taking on responsibilities such as managing the front desk and cleaning rooms. However, hotels that keep salespeople on property are more prepared for the future and booking business for the second half of 2020 and into 2021 and 2022. “I’m not worried about the next month,” one SAB member said. “I’m worried about what’s going to happen when we come out of this.”
One SAB member whose hotels have retained salespeople at every property said that it’s helpful to show the owners each week how much revenue the sales team booked, which in one case led to a sales manager who had been furloughed being brought back to help handle the large volume. “I don’t have a single property who didn’t have a decent booking week last week to justify, without a shadow of a doubt, their payroll,” the member said.
“This is really the opportunity for the sales discipline to shine,” another SAB member said. “We’re always talking about how to justify sales and explain the value of sales. Well, it’s for moments like this, right now. We need to be very vocal and very visible with what sales is doing.”
A NEW WORLD OF EVENTS
Much of the business that salespeople are booking right now is on the corporate side, but when groups reschedule their canceled events and schedule new ones, SAB members are predicting that things will look very different. “People’s behaviors are changing through this, whether they realize it or not,” one SAB member said. “And people are going to start doing things differently.”
Indeed, there are many things that could change or that are up in the air. Will customers book more space for groups than they need, or will they cut numbers to space out in smaller areas? What will staffing needs look like? Will companies even let their employees go to conferences? “We can’t pat ourselves on the back because we retained X amount of revenue in October and it didn’t cancel,” one SAB member said, “only to find that that same business when it comes in October wants to be treated differently and we have a problem.”
“It’s going to be on us to be able to propose alternatives to customers before they come to us with limitations,” another SAB member said. “We’ve got to be ahead of that.”
Several SAB members said they are already having regular calls and check-ins with key customers to find out which of their needs are changing and to reassess how their hotels can accommodate them. As many companies may soon begin lifting travel and meeting restrictions, others are adding new ones to balance business obligations with legal ramifications and liability risks that come with travel. “I think legal people will determine what it will look like and they’re going to demand it,” one SAB member said.
Even if large corporations don’t bring large numbers back quickly, one SAB member encouraged other members to focus on small business and leisure travel. “Emphasize focusing on your backyard and your drive market as the first to come back,” the member said. “When it comes to large corporations, the legal is going to get in the way, but small businesses don’t have that.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.