During my many trips over the past few months encompassing the US, the Middle East, and APAC, I have seen firsthand that the groups, events, and meetings are again back in full swing.
NB: This is an article from Parclane
However, the return of group business is not without challenges, including staffing shortages, inexperienced staff and planners, cost increases, supply chain issues, and short lead times.
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More than ever, sales managers are bombarded with RFP spam flooding their inboxes. What used to be a lead for 6 to 8 hotels now reaches 20 to 25, and the numbers can go even higher. Consequently, hotels need and ultimately want more qualified leads. However, since sales teams are often evaluated based on response time, they may waste time on RFPs unlikely to convert. Finally, we see that operations teams are still understaffed, pulling sales teams into operational tasks almost daily depending upon the location of their hotel property.
However, time is money, and the time has come to refocus on sales and prioritize prospecting over operational needs and busy work. First and foremost, sales leaders must fiercely protect selling time. To effectively do so, they need to communicate in a language that resonates with owners and operators – the language of cold, hard cash.
With the challenges facing our amazing industry and knowing that we now need to get things right the first time, here are seven essential ingredients to make group sales your competitive advantage.
1. Do a CRM audit
There is a goldmine of data in every S&C system. Every lead, call, appointment, and related activity is recorded and tracked throughout the sales pipeline. This basic lead management practice is essential, although some sales managers only enter leads they believe they can close. Even if a lead” isn’t the right fit (availability, budget, seasonality, free-sale window), it doesn’t mean that the contact isn’t a viable relationship for the hotel. If the contact data isn’t captured, even if the opportunity isn’t right, it’s unlikely that the sales team will ever prospect them in the future for other opportunities. Marketing Sherpa research shows that B2B data decays at a rate of 2.1% per month. This is an annualized rate of 22.5%, so it is imperative to audit your systems regularly. Auditing your system regularly may be painstaking, but it is a highly effective step to boost your sales. Hotel sales teams that lack visibility, relying solely on outdated data, are flying blind and don’t have a way of prioritizing what business to focus on.
2. Invest in lead automation tools
Speed, optimization, and efficiency always win when it comes to hospitality group business. Hotels that invest in solutions that enhance the traditional sales and catering system can streamline processes and empower salespeople to achieve superior results. By automating tasks, salespeople can allocate more time to activities of higher value. Automation puts prospecting on autopilot, shortens sales cycles, and solves the day-to-day challenges of any hotel sales team.
3. Revise your RFP process.
Not all RFPs are equal. A good strategy is to consider evaluating RFPs and scoring them accordingly:
- LOW: Not suitable for your hotel; reject immediately.
- MEDIUM: Requires a basic proposal with rates, dates, and space.
- HIGH: Deliver a highly personalized proposal with tailored follow-up.
Hotels can leverage automation and technology to handle your defined lead scoring framework to prioritize attention to leads likely to convert and trigger key messages or nurturing campaigns.
4. Eliminate manual tasks and distractions.
Reassess all internal activities that steal time from sales managers and reclaim it for their prospecting efforts. Review internal meetings and determine the essential attendees. Do all sales members need to attend the Daily Business Review (BDR) or Banquet Event Order (BEO) meetings? Most salespeople aren’t wired for manual busywork – they want to be out there selling, interacting with prospects and customers, etc. Eliminating a part of the work they don’t enjoy could also improve overall satisfaction with their job for better retention/recruitment. There is a generation in the labor market that demands up-to-date tools and won’t accept old ways of doing things so It’s critical that hoteliers not only optimize and automate using technological systems but also decrease the barriers to human productivity.
5. Stay informed about upcoming events in your area
Stay updated on concerts, conferences, festivals, and other events near your hotel. Utilize this knowledge to create special offers for group guests. Promote these offers on your website and other relevant platforms. Establish connections with event organizers to build relationships and explore potential collaborations that can mutually benefit both parties.
6. Cater to more than just large groups
You don’t necessarily need vast spaces solely dedicated to large groups. Consider hosting smaller groups, such as intimate weddings, small corporate events, family gatherings, or friend reunions. Create special rates and discounted packages specifically designed to attract these types of guests.
7. Articulate your unique value proposition
Utilize your hotel marketing efforts as a powerful tool to showcase your offers to your target audience. Whether you’re targeting business travelers or families, emphasize your unique selling points across all marketing channels, including your direct booking website. Capture enticing pictures of the spaces, such as your restaurant and meeting rooms, where events can take place. Include images from previous events to give potential bookers a glimpse of the atmosphere and experience they can expect at your hotel.
Implementing these strategies can enhance your hotel’s appeal and attract more groups. Remember to continuously evaluate and adjust your offerings based on market trends and guest feedback.