As opposed to organisations such as automotive dealerships, real estate agents and retail outlets, hotels are in the business of selling experiences rather than physical possessions. For this reason, members of staff tasked with taking reservations and booking rooms face a number of different and unique challenges.
However, this doesn’t mean to say that they can’t benefit from training and tuition in much the same way as other sales-oriented professions. In fact, providing employees in the hospitality industry with opportunities to increase their skills and expertise when it comes to selling can actually be highly advantageous.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done, as numerous hotels do not know where to start with training, especially from a sales perspective. It is relatively easy to teach employees about standard hotel practices and procedures, but what about giving reception staff or sales teams the tools and resources to increase the number of bookings and reservations?
Well, to address this all too common problem, here is a look at the importance of hotel sales training and how you can implement prosperous programs, which educate staff about essential aspects of selling.
Why is hotel sales training important?
At a basic level, you could argue that sales training is important to secure more customers, maintain a strong turnover and improve profit margins. However, this can be said for any business, regardless of its sector or size. As far as hotels are concerned, sales training is crucial for the following reasons.
To understand the product
First and foremost, sales staff need to know about the ins and outs of the hotel if they want to convince potential customers to make a booking. This might sound like an obvious step and something you would do as soon as a new employee is recruited, but understanding the product with detailed comprehension is always greatly appreciated by the customer. From whether the sun rises or sets out of the window to the gluten-free options in the hotel restaurant, every tiny aspect will need to learnt about.
To understand the competition
There is a strong possibility your hotel will be competing with a fair few alternative accommodation options in the local area. Chances are that prospects down the phone will also know about these other choices and have previously looked into the possibility of booking there too. If sales staff can recognise and recall the weaknesses of other hotels nearby and inform the customer about these drawbacks, you are bound to receive more bookings.
To understand the customer
Just like any other commodity, hotels are built and designed to serve a specific market segment or certain consumers. Therefore, it is imperative that your staff know what kind of customer they will be talking to and targeting, which can be covered in training. Failure to do so could mean a lot of valuable time and effort is wasted. There will be little to no point telling a travelling businessman about the hotel’s spa facilities when all he is interested in are strong transport links and a hearty morning breakfast.
How to improve hotel sales through training
Now that you know why hotel sales is important, we will start to look at the ways in which you can secure more reservations and bookings through training. Again, these might already be apparent but no stone can be left unturned when attempting to increase prosperity in an industry like hospitality.
Learn how to identify customer requirements
Even if you are targeting a specific niche, it is still advisable to develop a list of buyer personas, which can be learnt about at training. This will include demographics such as age, gender, location, job and interests. That way, sales staff will be able to identify customer requirements and be in a better position to provide the best service possible.
If you cannot unearth much information about certain personas, sales staff should be encouraged to ask questions about the customer’s preferences directly. These can be noted down and kept hold of for future reference as well.
Teach staff about phone etiquette
Talking down the phone will come as second nature for some people, but others may find this form of communication a little bit trickier to master. However, maintaining a professional tone of voice while remaining kind and courteous is essential when selling hotel rooms.
Remember that customers probably have a number of different accommodation options available and will not appreciate a hard sell. At the same time, questions and queries must be treated with patience not irritation.
Emphasise customer service
The sales process isn’t just limited to phone calls, as guest interactions with receptionists, housekeepers, waitresses and bar staff can also impact on future bookings. If they are not treated well, the chance of securing repeat business is reduced and the customer may even spread negative reviews about their experience.
So, you should think about extending any sales training to the entire workforce. After all, employees that are seen on a daily basis are representatives of the hotel and can be as much of a marketing tool as an advertisement.
Strike the right balance between personal and financial skills
The vast majority of hotel staff that achieve the most bookings tend to be genuinely interested in speaking to people and serving the customer. But while this might be their primary motivation for the role, they also need to recognise the importance of ROI and appreciate the need to make money.
Even though your first concern should be the customer, sales training will also need to address the financial responsibilities of employees too. This might involve negotiation skills or greater comprehension of market conditions.
Keep your feet on the ground with realistic expectations
With success for certain hotels dependent on so many variables such as the weather or economy, sales training shouldn’t be considered a sure fire way to guarantee success. Instead, keep your feet on the ground and approach this process with realistic expectations.
But even if you only witness a slight upturn in fortunes, you can rest assured this process will have favourable future repercussions. Through sales training, your workforce will posses more skills and greater proficiency, customers will be more likely to stay again and pass on positive remarks to others, while the hotel’s cash flow will benefit from more turnover and a higher profit in the long-term too.