business groups meetings and events are an important revenue stream for hotels

Today’s hotel and event salespeople work in completely different environments than most of their leaders experienced. Meeting and event booking sites have created a flood of leads, which can be overwhelming for those working in a sales role equipped and staffed for the era when leads came in by phone or website inquiry forms.

NB: This is an article from Kennedy Training Network

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter and stay up to date

When revenues drop, salespeople are required to meet prospecting quotas, based on a set number of calls, sent emails, DMs, or door knocks. Yet calls go to voicemail, emails go to spam, random DMs go unread, and the office doors being knocked on are either locked, or if open, there’s no one at the receptionist station because of remote work.

Self-serving “thought leaders,” employed by tech companies, offer blogs and conference presentations pushing automation RFP responses and AI-powered prospecting, leading to generic, spammy-feeling sales correspondence. They push urban legends such as “The hotel that responds first will get the deal,” and “Younger buyers love tech, hate human interactions, and prefer self-service.”

To me personally, this looks a lot like the commoditization of transient sales that happened in the early 2000s when OTAs stole market share from direct channels such as and voice, placing inventory on the same list and charging more to be at the top.

Think about how the hotel product of today looks and feels to buyers. Product? On the surface, hotel brands targeting the same market segment look an awful lot alike, copycatting each other’s lobby designs, guest room décor, loyalty programs, and amenities. Place? Whenever one hotel starts to outperform, ground is broken by new competitors nearby. Price? With hotels subscribing to the same performance data reporting, using largely the same revenue management and pricing systems, powered by the same algorithms, rates are largely the same.

Now, if we add to that, hotels displaying rates for groups and events at online platforms, using the same sales CRMs to filter inquiries, pricing group rates with the same methodology, sending largely the same generic, AI-driven proposal templates and automated follow-up drip campaigns, it feels a lot like the 2010’s all over again but this time with groups, meetings, and events.

If you wanna get as much business as everyone else gets, do the same things everyone else does, and you will likely get exactly your fair share of the market. If you are looking to outperform the competition, then always remember that as a salesperson, YOU are your hotel’s superpower. Read on for training tips from KTN’s sales training programs and my conference presentations.

  • Sort and prioritize incoming leads. Most salespeople already prioritize leads for larger deals and low-demand dates, but also factor in the level of details shared by the sender. For example, if you log in and see 10 inquiries from The Knot or CVENT, check out which senders made the effort to share the most details in their inquiry form or RFP.
  • Take time to “read the lead,” beyond just what’s obvious. Look for subtle clues about what’s really important. Where possible, thoughtfully research their needs on sender websites or social feeds.
  • Craft more authentic, thoughtful responses, especially to the hottest leads. Rather than using generic introductory paragraphs in sales correspondence, paraphrase and restate key details. Edit templates, deleting images and textual copy that does not apply.
  • Rather than being the absolute first to respond, stand out amongst the early responders by showing you thoroughly read through the requests and requirements.
  • Place a phone call, even if it goes to voicemail, to put a voice with a name and to say “Just wanted to reach out to get a few more details so I can respond more specifically to your needs.”
  • Respond to all “right-sized” leads. (Of course, do not waste time in responding to a lead for 300 rooms if you only have 100, or for dinner for 200 if you can only seat 50.) Yes, even to those that are for sold-out dates, even when the sender says they are not flexible. (They may find out that other hotels are also already booked, therefore becoming flexible.) Yes, even if their stated budget is lower than your rate ranges. (Again, they may become budget flexible due to necessity, or consider you in the future for other needs.)
  • Responding to all will require you to think creatively to get the help you will need, possibly outside of your “silo” of the sales department. Examples: If you are a one-person sales team at a mid-market hotel, perhaps there’s an ambitious, hungry, front desk superstar ready to use predictable downtimes that exist in just about every 8-hour shift to help you respond to those weak, lower-priority leads. If you work at a large hotel with several salespeople, perhaps you could all share a sales lead screener for this function.
  • Embrace your CRM and make it work for you. Think about it. In the past, the planner had to either call a hotel or fill out a website inquiry form, which was time-consuming, so 1 piece of business may have generated 3 or 4 leads. Now, with a few strokes on a keyboard or swipes on a smartphone glass, 1 piece of business can send 10 or more salespeople scrambling to respond. With so many more leads floating around, it is just not practical to track them with flagged emails, Outlook calendar tasks, or on a stack of printouts of the inquiry.
  • Ignore all the cool, but unnecessary functions of your CRM, turn off the auto-alerts and pop-up reminders that interrupt your thoughts. Make sure your CRM does the most important tasks: Allow you to enter notes from conversations, summarize key details, attach correspondence (emails, in-app message exchanges), and most importantly, put the next follow-up step on your to-do list.
  • Speaking of follow-up, there’s nearly always a next step. If the business is recurring, reach out again a few weeks before this year’s inquiry. If you lost the deal or denied it due to lack of availability, trace for next time. After the event or departure, reach out to humbly ask for referrals. If they work for a large company or association, ask for cross-selling referrals from other divisions. If it was a SMERF function, ask to be introduced to next year’s incoming conference chair or gala planner, or the school’s other sports team coaches.
  • Using the above concepts, salespeople can work prospecting into their ongoing daily activities.
  • Still though, it is important to block specific times of day, or days of the week, for outbound prospecting for new business, versus trying to “find” that time to do so.
  • Rather than sending generic, spammy emails and DM’s when you prospect, spend a bit more time researching to ensure that the “suspects” are actually “prospects.”
  • When reaching out with prospecting messaging, use a “tech for touch” approach. Use headshots on emails. Say something specific in your opening paragraph indicating why you think the person may benefit from the connection, showing that you have done your homework.
  • Make it easy to connect for calls or Zooms. Strong relationships still matter to planners. Use an online scheduling app such as Calendly to avoid the frustrating back-and-forth otherwise needed to agree on a time to talk, rather than doing deals exclusively by email.
  • Pay attention to the nuance of sales language. Don’t be generic! For example, instead of saying “Let me know if you have any questions…” say “Let me know what else we can do on our end to host your event/group/travelers.

Find out more about Kennedy Training Network