Hiring Is Only the First Step

Hiring a salesperson is a very costly investment, particularly if you don't do some things to help that person become productive as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the majority of new sales people are left pretty much on their own to pick up the skills and knowledge they need. People who teach themselves never learn many of the techniques they should be taught in the first few days of employment.

I'm presently marketing my online basic selling techniques course (The Seven Steps of the Call), and I'm shocked to hear general managers and directors of sales tell me that in about half the cases their bosses won't let them spend the very reasonable cost of the course (or other similar programs) to get their people properly trained. In most cases, they believe they'll eventually be able to convince their bosses to come up with the money, but they're not sure when it will happen. This is shocking to me when I think of the importance of training salespeople, many of whom are competing with well-trained individuals at other hotels.

Here is an outline of the training every new person needs, in addition to office procedures of the hotel. The basics include topics such as manners and appearance, product knowledge, competitive evaluation, the types of sales calls, letter-writing techniques and coaching and counseling.

Manners and appearance

This training should cover a discussion of the basics in these areas and include a written critique of the areas that need improvement.

Product and competition knowledge

Every hotel should create product and competition knowledge fact sheets, including strengths and weaknesses of the competition versus your product. The new salesperson should memorize the pertinent facts.

Sales calls

The new salesperson should have knowledge of the basic types of calls and the differences among them. Management needs to develop a sales presentation for the various types of customer contact: phone inquiry, personal introductory call at client offices and hotel tours.

Form letters

The new salesperson should write, and his or her superior should approve, group proposal letters and group confirmation letters using letters presently employed by the hotel as samples. Note: The proposal should be a letter that sells the hotel and makes tentative arrangements.

Booking records

The new person needs to keep detailed booking records and submit them to his or her supervisor monthly. The key records include definites by dates booked, tentatives by dates booked and cancellations by dates cancelled. The salesperson and the supervisor can agree on the exact format.

Testing

The new salesperson should be tested monthly with both written and oral tests. He or she should also regularly shop the competition, with those efforts graded by supervisors.

Coaching/counseling

Set up a schedule to give new salespeople regular help and advice from a senior member of the sales staff.

In many hotels, new salespeople are assigned the deadest of dead accounts that even the most experienced salesperson would have trouble booking. Many directors of sales have the mistaken idea that new people should work on accounts they can't foul up. Working on these accounts can discourage even the most optimistic.

New salespeople should be assigned some hot leads with good potential so they'll enjoy the taste of victory early and often. These accounts need to be supervised closely to be certain everything stays on track.

To go from a situation in which salespeople are left completely on their own to a program of this type requires much effort, particularly at the beginning. Bear in mind, however, that the hard work will definitely pay off as I've seen in many situations in which I have been involved in a consulting capacity.


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. His 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 ttmccarthy@cox.net or 703-931-0757.

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