By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As a part of its latest series of virtual Executive Roundtables connecting hotel executives working in specific functions, HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for chief sales officers on July 7 in partnership with Clairvoyix, ZS, and Groups360. (Read recaps of HSMAI’s previous virtual CSO Executive Roundtable, held on March 26, here and here.) Participants chose what topics the program focused on; participating companies included Accor, Aqua-Aston Hospitality, Club Quarters Hotels, Drury Hotels LLC, Extended Stay America, Loews Hotels & Co., MGM Resorts International, OYO Hotels Inc., and Radisson Hotel Group-Americas. Here are takeaways from the program:
The way companies are handling incentive plans for salespeople varies greatly, with roundtable participants expressing uncertainty as to the best way to implement them going forward. Several participants said they are waiting until business comes back before making any moves toward reinstating incentive plans, while others are in a constant state of flux.
“We have maintained flexibility to change on a monthly basis,” one participant said. “It’s hard, because our employees are realizing that the results of their efforts aren’t what they were before, when they are doing all they can to bring in business.”
One participant stressed the importance of having incentives to motivate employees now more than ever. “There’s a renewed interest in giving incentives, because everyone is doing the work of multiple people right now,” the participant said. “April was one of our highest-booking months and we want to reward the employees that are working harder than ever to bring in business.”
But another participant disagreed. “It would feel awkward to give incentives while so many are furloughed,” the participant said. “Their motivation now is to bring in work so that we can bring more of the team back.”
As the situation evolves every week, sales professionals are taking note of what is working and what is no longer applicable in this new world. “We are trying to unlearn everything,” one participant said. “What got us here won’t get us where we want to go. Past approaches aren’t going to work for an extended period of time.”
Another participant said that while flexibility in skillsets is important, being proactive and adaptable is equally necessary, as many salespeople will be working across multiple properties and potentially multiple regions more than they were pre-COVID. “The ability to navigate different markets in varying degrees of recovery is important,” the participant said. “They need to be able to take what is working and apply it to another market but be willing to abandon it very quickly if they have to.”
Another area where salespeople have to readjust their focus is key accounts. Participants said that they need to shift away from low-demand segments, no matter how important they were previously, and focus on segments that are increasing now. “Key accounts people have to be flexible and focus on other business,” one participant said. “You can’t rely on key accounts continuing to be key accounts in the future. We have to identify new customers and focus on them.”
Another participant has created a business development team focused on bringing in new groups that the copmany previously did not target. “We have to start engaging with other sectors we weren’t focused on before,” the participant said. “Everyone needs to be quick on their feet and adapt to what’s on the books now, instead of what was there in the past.”
RFPS AND PRICING
GBTA announced previously that it was recommending suspending the RFP season for this year. Roundtable participants shared their thoughts on RFPs that are nonetheless coming in and their suggestions for 2021 pricing without RFPs.
“I would like to see encouragement for corporations to delay RFPs to as late as possible,” one participant said. “The best thing we can do as an industry is to say that there is no point in sending out RFPs now and expect people to respond in July. There’s nobody on property to respond to them.” Another participant added: “It’s impossible and illogical right now to expect companies to have any idea about 2021 right now.”
Several participants said they are encouraging hotels to utilize dynamic pricing going forward. “Hotels are going to set price at the local level, and anything we can have that can be off that is a lot less work and a lot fairer to both sides,” one participant said. Another participant added: “Some companies are really not that keen on dynamic pricing, but I really don’t understand why. It’s the best thing for them right now.”
“In the past, their hesitation was that it was harder to manage a budget because they didn’t know what the impact was going to be,” another participant said, “but in situations like this, it’s to their benefit to be on dynamic pricing as an industry and it would be a reduction in costs for our partners as well.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.