Is it time to rethink your sales organization?

The advent of online meeting-site-selection tools such as Cvent has dramatically changed the functional role of an on-property group salesperson. In using such portals, meeting planners have the advantage of getting quotes from many hotels with a quick click of a button, saving a lot of the time and effort over the traditional method of contacting each hotel individually. These leads take the hotel sales department an enormous amount of time to complete, especially as the probability of winning the business lowers as more hotels are considered.

In talking with various sales professionals, I’ve heard that it takes anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes to complete an online RFP; if the process is interrupted, you have to start all over again. One sales office had over 300 Cvent leads in one month. That’s 100 hours of responding to online leads, just shy of 2 weeks of lead response only.

This dynamic is forcing the on-property sales organization to redefine its structure, focus and duties in order to maximize its effectiveness. I’ve synthesized them into 3 key functions:

  1. Administration/order-taking: dealing with incoming leads. Response time is critical, as is accurately completing all the fields in a Cvent RFP. This takes a detailed-oriented, organized person.
  2. Relationship building: the skill and ability to develop relationships quickly and, often, on paper. During focus groups, meeting planners continue to value relationship with their hotel sales representative, yet technology becomes a barrier to enhancing it. The astute and adaptable salesperson knows how to overcome this obstacle, and they are the ones who close more business.
  3. Closing: the salesperson who demonstrates persistent follow-up and the tenacity to ask for the business in a variety of ways are the ones who win more business. Delivering world-class site inspections is often a critical component, as they showcase the property as offering a unique experience and the only option the meeting planner should consider.

With this in mind, I recommend every hotel sales organization take the following actions:

  1. Conduct a deep-dive review of the sales organization, including who is ‘catching’ the leads, what they do next, and how quickly salespeople respond (to name a few components). Is the sales department set up for success in today’s environment?
  2. Figure out a reliable way to measure group sales conversion and include this metric when evaluating hotel salespeople.
  3. Determine the selling skills and sales effectiveness of each salesperson. Define when there is a need for training or simple coaching to improve conversion and production. Identify the closers versus the hunters, and make sure the deployment matches their strength.
  4. Develop a ‘best-in-class’ site-inspection process that beats the competition every time. During the inspection, weave in elements of the hotel brand that set your company and hotel apart.
  5. Establish a role that focuses on new business development. This is a hunter, who relentlessly seeks out those clients currently using your competition and who should be at your hotel.

Shake things up by conducting a deep dive to understand the impact of the online RFP process and how it has changed the group-booking process. Use this opportunity to better understand the sales qualities that are needed given this new environment. Change is often difficult, and doing things differently, including restructuring the sales organization, may lead to disruption that in the short term can be painful but in the long term means greater success.


"Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win."
Max McKeown

Take the Next Step Now

Need help with your organization? Hire Jo-Anne to transform your organization by

  • Doing a deep-dive review of your sales and marketing structure
  • Optimizing your sales and marketing
  • Getting behind barriers that impede employee productivity
  • Turning all your employees into drivers of revenue
  • Improving employee engagement
  • Improving customer satisfaction
  • Conducting leadership executive coaching
  • Creating a healthy organizational culture

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About Jo-Anne Hill

Jo-Anne is an industry expert who founded JH Hospitality Consulting to help hotels around the world dramatically improve revenue and profitability in creative ways. Her strategic thinking, skill, and practical approach to problem-solving come from hands-on experience at companies such as The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin-Oriental Hotel Group, Dorchester Collection, and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts.

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