For hoteliers selling to groups, understanding the ins and outs of the human mind can be of great benefit. It’s not about manipulation; it’s about understanding human behavior in a business that is, at its core, a people business.
NB: This is an article from Cendyn
The objective is to dial into your clients’ wants and needs, and then delivering. Think of it as highly attuned Persona Matching: you know your target clients so well that you can predict behavior, influence decisions, cut through the noise and address underlying needs better than the competition. So how can you leverage the psychology of selling to become a true group sales pro? These are the seven skills that will help you close more groups and events at your hotel.
1. Be more observant
The most important skill when it comes to improving group sales at your hotel is observation. Observation skills are a form of mindfulness; it’s about being present and aware of your surroundings. To cultivate your own observation skills, focus on being more aware — both at the hotel during a shift and off the clock, when out in the world among others. When selling and dealing with clients, try to pick out specific details that you may not have noticed in passing. As you tap into your awareness, you’ll find your observation skills improve and you’ll be able to discern new behaviors you may have missed before.
2. Ask more questions
Success with group hotel sales often comes down to questions. Not only do questions show potential clients that you care about their needs, but you’re also able to surface important information that you can then use to adjust your approach and customize your proposal.
With proper deduction skills, you’ll avoid the trap of making false assumptions about a particular group or event. Sure, there’s a lot to learn from the size of a group, type of the group, and who is planning the event. Yet there’s also the risk of making assumptions that lead you astray. When you’re asking enough questions, you eliminate assumptions and illuminate the unmet needs.
Questions also give you a path to overcoming objections. You don’t just have to guess your prospects’ concerns…you can ask them directly! Whether it’s in your initial call or via a follow-up email, just ask so you can tackle those concerns head-on while also learning more about your prospect. Then, you can say this to them:
“You told me you were concerned about price, so I crafted three custom packages to offer you the most variety. I think you’ll find one that meets your needs at a great price.”
When you answer the internal conversations prospects are already having, you appear proactive and trustworthy — two qualities that are especially desirable for those organizing events.
3. Listen to the answers
Of course, asking questions doesn’t do much good if you don’t listen to the answers! Listening is a superpower for a group sales pro. Clients will most often tell us what they need to hear to make a decision and give us the information we need to build a winning proposal.
By staying attuned to your clients, you’ll be able to connect the dots between what your property offers, what the client needs, and what you can do to make the client’s event a success. To be a better listener, do three things:
- Don’t interrupt
- Read between the lines
- Ask smart follow-up questions
4. Read body language
Non-verbal communication is a fountain of knowledge for decoding a prospect’s true feelings. As you cultivate awareness, you’ll also be able to better read body language. Keep these three things in mind to improve your body language skills:
- Start with a baseline. Don’t overthink this, as you most likely are interacting with the prospect for the first time. Just make a quick assessment to set a baseline; that way you can notice if behavior later shifts. Did the prospect start off gregarious and become quiet later? Believe it or not, this obvious sign of disengagement is often missed by salespeople who talk too much!
- Make eye contact. You’d be amazed at how few people actually observe the normal facial expressions of a conversational partner. For property walk-throughs, make sure that you’re making regular eye contact to establish rapport and maintain connection. For instance, if the other person makes less eye contact with you over time, they may be getting impatient and ready to move on
- Look for micro-expressions and gestures. These flashes show how people really feel, revealing a lot about how the potential client feels about the experience. Gestures also matter: pay attention to how the prospect uses their arms and hands. Are they crossed, suggesting tension or animated, suggesting excitement? Take those cues and adjust your presentation’s style or content on the fly.
5. Use social proof
People want to say yes. Especially when it comes to events — organizers and planners don’t want to unnecessarily extend the stressful venue sourcing process. They want to secure the venue and move on.
So, give them the nudge they need to say yes by convincing them that your hotel is the ideal host for their event. Whether at the initial RFP stage, the property walk-around, or at the final contract stage, success lies in emphasizing how your hotel meets their needs. You should provide all the information they need to give them the confidence to say yes.
This confidence is built along the prospect’s journey, with each touchpoint an opportunity to position your hotel favorably in the prospect’s evaluation. The key is to back up all claims with proof points, so that you can provide social proof that your hotel is as good as you say it is.
For each specific event type (wedding, off-site, etc), update your website, marketing materials, and proposal templates to feature satisfied customers. Put their photos alongside descriptive testimonials that highlight how exceptional their experience was.
Customize your proposal to include only the most relevant testimonials, choosing event types, personalities, and brands that resonate with the prospect’s own needs and situation. The right social proof, coupled with compelling copy that highlights your property’s bonafides, is the path to conversion.
6. Know your prospect
Here’s another benefit to doing in-depth, accurate personal research: You can use what you know about your prospect to better address their needs.
Remember that people don’t always say what they mean or know exactly what they want. When a potential client says one thing, and exhibits behavior that suggest otherwise, it’s wise to listen to that intuition. That doesn’t mean ignore what they say; it means providing an additional option that may align more with what they actually want but can’t verbalize.
Consider a common event type for group sales at hotels: Weddings. You should have a very different approach between building out of a proposal for a couple versus an experienced wedding planner. The couple is likely experiencing wedding planning for the first time and is personally invested in every detail. For them, there’s a lot of fear and uncertainty as they plan such a major milestone event. Whereas the event planner has plenty of experience and is likely going to be much more practical and focused on delivering for the clients.
In other words, the planner may focus more on the logical benefits while a couple focuses more on the emotional benefits. It won’t always be the case, but the example illustrates the importance of tailoring your approach to your audience. Your hotel’s sales process should accommodate these differences and use your knowledge of the audience to strengthen your offering.
7. Tell stories that connect emotion and need
The final skill you need to become a group sales pro is storytelling, a powerful technique to connect with prospects and close more deals.
Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When you focus on emotion — or how people feel — you’re able to tap into a deep well of human connection.
This is especially relevant for group sales, which often involve emotional decisions: the couple getting married, the corporation celebrating a milestone, the family coming together for a reunion. Each of these event types has needs and emotion associated with it; a group sales pro leans right into those to deliver a winning proposal.
Stories are the most effective path to tie the emotion to the need. Stories should show how the prospect feels when fulfilling their needs: the couple that gets a knockout wedding under budget, the corporate events planner that wows executives with an over-the-top event, the cousin that brings together 5 generations for the first (and likely) only time. Tell that story with the prospect as the main character, and you build the scaffolding to close more deals.