Over the years, I have observed that large hotel franchise chains don't do a very good job of encouraging their property-level people to sell small groups. Here's a four-step program to follow to succeed in local sales:

  1. Get your franchisees on board

    National and local hotel interests must work together in a program that won't go anywhere without the backing of the national chain. Owners and general managers who count on the franchise company don't seem to see they must do their part locally if the potential of the hotel is to be realized.

  2. Build excitement at the property level

    I recommend that two to four trained people at each hotel, including the general manager, add group sales to their regular management or front-desk responsibilities. Assuming these additional duties means:

    • More money through commissions for booked groups.

    • A new title for all but general managers to show the job upgrade. Sales Executive, Account Executive and Sales Consultant are titles that would reflect the promotion.

    • Everyone on the front desk would have the opportunity to compete for these positions.

    • For hotels with sales departments, the sales director would coordinate the sales department and front-desk responsibilities and training.

  3. Pick the right training

    Sales training used to be confined to the classroom, which made its delivery expensive. Now, online training can be provided at a fraction of the cost. More importantly, it's more successful. It's more effective for a number of reasons:

    • You save time, reporting one day and starting online training the next.

    • You set the pace that is best for you.

    • You study when you are most effective.

    • You study when it's most convenient.

    • As you go through training, which takes several hours over a few days, you can role-play what you have learned with your own prospects during actual telephone calls.

    • The Internet means you can access the “classroom” anywhere.

    • Online training costs considerably less money than classroom training.

    • You are fully tested on every aspect of course.

    In the future, training should include instruction in making outgoing telephone solicitation calls, conducting sales tours of the hotel, and making local calls at clients' offices. General managers should lead this training, with guidance from staff to prepare and audit them.

  4. Competition and awards

    Group sales competition between chain hotels could be built into a major category for awards at an annual meeting to keep the level of excitement high every year.

All told, adding an aggressive sales program can generate big-time revenue if properly planned and developed.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-931-0757.

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