Quality Sales Training Counts

If I were a hotel general manager or director of sales, one of my key questions would be how prepared my sales people are for the future.

Many management people mistakenly feel a talent for selling is acquired by osmosis and that formalized sales training isn't really needed. You need to determine whether your people are ready to sell during the competitive times ahead.

During the last four years, many sales people have become order takers because business has been plentiful. During such periods, when business is lost to the competition, there is always more than enough to take its place.

We may think we have an experienced sales staff, but most or all of them may have come into sales in the last four years and are experienced only in order taking rather than fighting for every dollar in a competitive marketplace. The sad result is that many of these drop out when true sales expertise is needed.

As someone who has been in sales long enough to have seen numerous good and bad cycles, I believe I can dispel some myths about the field.

The first myth is that the best way to train new sales people is to let them shadow more experienced sales people for a few days before going out on their own.

This doesn't work very well because it lacks the structure successful sales training provides. My company trained more than 25,000 sales people in groups of 15 to 25, giving them a solid foundation on which to build. After receiving formal training is the best time to shadow your best sales people.

In the early 1970s, before large hotel companies provided hotel-specific selling techniques training, it really didn't matter how informal the training was because few new hires were given professional sales training. So, while we weren't that proficient then, neither were our competitors. Today, however, a much greater number of industry sales people have received formal sales training and are very tough competitors.

The second myth is you shouldn't send sales people to basic training until you have a better idea of their chances of success.

This myth is based purely on cost. Many hotels have spent $1,500 to $2,500 to send someone to the company's sales training and find out a month later that the person isn't going to make it.

The only problem with waiting a few months is sales people develop some bad habits in the first few months when they should be getting their training.

The third myth is that selling techniques are developed only through personal experience. This, of course, is partially true, but it is also true there are skills that can be learned on the first day of training that would take years to learn if left up to experience alone.

My key point is that sales training is very important, and all of us should give serious thought to how it will be accomplished. Without effective training, your hotels will never fulfill full potential.

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 a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at ttmccarthy@cox.net or 703-931-0757.

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