The current global pandemic has caused extreme turbulence in the hospitality industry. Global travel was one of the main reasons the hospitality industry was experiencing continued growth pre COVID-19. In January of 2020, the World Tourism Organization was predicting that the number of tourist arrivals across the globe would grow by 3-4% in 2020.
And then the virus hit shaking up our world like a child with a snowglobe.
As of today, government policies have pretty much stopped international travel. New restrictions on gathering size have forced meetings and events to cancel or move to an online platform. Group bookings and transient business travel have disappeared.
I’m frustrated. You’re frustrated. The world is frustrated. Gone are the days of an inbox full of hotel RFPs and a voicemail filled with inquiries. Instead, sales teams are finding that their calendars are wide open with very few opportunities trickling through.
It would be easy to give up. But as the industry heads into recovery, hoteliers around the world need to dig deep and find new ways to connect and build relationships with people across the globe. The sales team is an integral part of determining whether or not a hotel will stay in business or permanently close their doors.
Greg Johnson, hotel sales expert with over 20 years of experience, explains this perfectly in a webinar titled Hotel Sales in a Covid World, “When you work in sales, you are the front line of connecting with your customers. You’re the cheerleader of the hotel.” He continues by explaining that hotel sales teams should be motivated by the fact that their results have a direct impact on the business and the return of their furloughed team members.
While it’s important to be motivated, especially in sales, you also need actionable steps to be able to reach your goal. What exactly does prospecting look like in today’s climate and how can hotel sales teams navigate through this new world of doing business?
1 – Connect With Your Current Network
Start with what you know. Go through your hotel sales tools like your CRM or rolodex and reach out to your past customers or those that have had to cancel events during the pandemic. It’s important to research before connecting. The unemployment rate in the US is at 10.2%. You want to be sensitive to those that might be furloughed or laid off due to the current state of the world.
Johnson recommends looking at their Linkedin profile to see what their current professional status is and then reach out with that in mind, “Everyone needs a friend when you get laid off. It’s cathartic to have people reach out.”
Send a personal message or call to check in. This first outreach should not be to sell but to connect and reestablish your relationship. As you continue to communicate, you can start sharing news about your property. This will keep you top of mind while also respecting what’s going on in the world. Offering up-to-date information on your hotel and the measures you’re taking to keep everyone safe, not only lets your clients know you’re taking this seriously, but it also reminds them that you’re there when they’re ready to travel.
You should also ask them for referrals or potential leads. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most effective forms of marketing. Don’t forget to document everything in your sales CRM and set tasks to ensure you are communicating with them at a regular cadence.
2 – Bulk Up Your Pipeline
Now that you’ve connected with previous leads or clients, you can start looking for new business. Again, you want to do your research before connecting.
How do you find out who is travelling right now and from where?
Airport arrival boards will tell you the volume of incoming flights and the departing city. You can get even more granular by using predictive tools like ExpertFlyer to see how full the flights are. By understanding where people are traveling from, you can target those markets.
Certain industries have actually boomed during the pandemic. Healthcare, transportation, grocery and technology are all seeing growth right now. Find businesses in your state or province that fall into those industries and search for executive assistants or office managers at these businesses. They typically do all the travel bookings or will know who you should reach out to. You can use tools like LinkedIn to better understand who you are reaching out to and hunter.io to find emails online.
Once you have all this information in your CRM you can start reaching out.
3 – Reach Out
Informed initial calls will differentiate you from others that are also cold calling or emailing. Write unique introductory emails that break the ice while also establishing credibility. The goal is to build a relationship by adding value to your prospects day. You want to share information about your property’s safety measures or blog posts about business travel in your city. Don’t go right into selling. You’re in it for the long term – build trust and a real relationship.
Once you’ve established a relationship with them, make the ask and get intel. You want to know if they’re currently doing any business travel or what they would need to see from you to stay at your property. If they’re currently not traveling, find out when they think they will start again and set a task in your CRM to reach out then. Information is power. Even if it’s a no today it doesn’t mean it can’t be a yes in the future.
Hotel sales are at an all-time low right now and sales teams across the globe are fighting for the limited business out there. Do your homework to find the opportunities available. Add them into your sales pipeline and CRM software and start reaching out in an authentic manner that isn’t pushy or rude. Be generous with your knowledge to build genuine relationships.
The best salespeople are the ones who are able to show compassion and flexibility during this period. Your prospects are going to remember the businesses that were able to accommodate their needs during this global crisis. While you might not see results today, it will set you up for success for the future.