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Neil L. Salerno, CHME, CHA

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"What the Heck is Hotel Revenue Management, Anyway?"

 

New Hotel Technology Surround Us; Yet

Face-to-face Selling is Still Most Productive

By: Neil Salerno, Hotel Marketing Coach

Automated sales and catering systems have grown in popularity and are weaving their way into ever smaller independent and franchised hotels. Once exclusive to the larger properties with considerable public space, these marvels of technology have proven themselves to be a good investment, over and over again.

Hotel sales & catering systems are great record and data storage instruments which enable hotels to track their business sources, solicit repeat business and even help maintain good rate management. In spite of this new technology, nothing can replace good old fashioned face-to-face contact.

Frankly, I see nothing on the horizon which could replace the need to meet and greet potential clients. Many sales and catering systems allow users to formulate proposals and contracts and even email or fax them directly from a computer. This is great, but beware that we are not creating distance between us and our clients. Fax and email are wonderful tools but I see more and more sales people using these tools to avoid client contact.

The goal is and should be to get face-to-face with clients. As we use technology to assist in the solicitation of business, we should remember that this is still a relationship business. Frankly, I have seen many hotels getting wrapped up in all this new technology. 

Now donít get me wrong, I have always been a staunch proponent of implementing new technology into our industry. I remember well the old days of IBM Selectric typewriters, carbon paper, and poorly written confirmation letters. Weíve come a long way from those  days. Are we now so jaded about technology that we are short-cutting the sales process?

The strongest sales programs still emphasize the need for developing a rapport with clients and I know of no better way to do that than face-to-face contact. How often do the general manager and/or the sales team entertain potential clients for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Has email actually replaced phone contact? Email should be used to ďconfirmĒ conversations; not to replace them. 

There is so much talk about the Internet; many people view it as the panacea for all our occupancy woes. Fat chance. Oh, itís a wonderful new gift to our industry, no doubt. But folks, itís not a replacement for all the wonderful standard methods of soliciting new business. True, itís a great tool for prospecting and finding business, but face-to-face meetings with potential clients are still the most effective means to book business.

The majority of room business for your hotel will still be booked through old fashioned person-to-person selling. Is your front desk up-to-speed with the rates and packages being sold online? Do you have an active front desk log to keep pace with rates being quoted,, turn-aways, and denials? Whether the log is kept in your front office system or in a log book, donít allow technology to make us lazy about old systems that have worked well in the past? 

Brief mentions about using technology properly; have you checked to see that all fields in your front office system are being recorded for every check-in? I visited a hotel the other day whose front office decided it was too much work to ask guests for their email addresses. Not serious, I guess, unless the hotel decides to do an email mailing one day.

My caution is simple; technology needs to be managed like all other aspects of this business. Itís not meant to replace other means of doing the sales job, itís meant to enhance them. The old basics still work. Create face-to-face opportunities to gain that relationship, which has worked so well for the hospitality industry for many years. Use technology to make the job easier; not to create short-cuts. 

The old concept of ďpressing fleshĒ on a daily basis canít be replaced by the Internet, email, voicemail, or fax machines.

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