Many of us work very hard on the selling strategies and techniques we use on our prospects and customers but not nearly hard enough on selling to our superiors. I often hear people griping about how difficult it is to sell their bosses on anything. It's as if bosses can't be sold.

Here is what I hear: “If I recommend an expenditure of $500 to develop a selling strategy, they invariably resist by saying that their general managers would never agree to spending any additional money on anything.“ I'm amazed that the very people on whom the hotel counts to sell business for the hotel have so little confidence in selling their own bosses.

If you've had this experience, try something with which I had a lot of success over the last half of my hotel selling career. You need to give the general manager all the information he or she needs to make the decision. When we want to persuade our boss to do something, we usually make a recommendation and leave it at that: “Why don't we develop a campaign to sell weekend packages?“, or “We need to involve everyone in the hotel in a prospecting program to develop our small meeting room nights“, or “We should target all of the annual banquets of 300-500 persons that are held in our area“, or “Could we renovate the third-floor function rooms and concentrate on meetings of 30 persons that require 20-25 sleeping rooms?“, or “Let's exhibit at the XYZ convention next year and see what we can develop.“

All of these ideas may be good ones, but the GM who accepts responsibility to follow up on projects of this size without further information will soon have a plate that's overflowing.

Years ago, I had a general manager who asked a lot of questions before agreeing to move ahead. I soon learned that we had to have the answers ready before we could expect him to give the approval. Normally, he would ask the questions — “Full costs broken out in detail?” “Return on investment?“ “How many people will it take?“ “When do we have to get started?“ — and we would have the answers to some and offer to get the answers to others and then set up a follow-up meeting.

After a while, I realized he always asked the same questions so I would prepare answers in writing before bringing up the suggestion in the first place. I started getting approvals much faster because I wasn't leaving all the work up to him. I provided the answers to his questions in writing before he asked them and simply asked him to initial the approval after hearing our presentation. It literally saved months of waiting for approvals that would never have come if we hadn't made it easy for him to make a decision.

Others in our group never did realize why our department's projects always seemed to move ahead while theirs remained in the talking stage month after month. We simply made it easy for our boss to make a decision, and he showed his appreciation by providing the approvals.

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 703-379-4488.

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