Having moved directly from the front desk into sales at the age of 23, I can clearly visualize what “not ready for prime time” means.

Just as it was back then, new sales people don't receive the practical training they need to move them from the lowest to the highest sales position.

I'm not saying that sales people aren't learning a lot every day. However, my experience tells me that sales people aren't learning as much as they could under a more formalized, consistent learning program that gives the typical sales person more knowledge in less time to prepare them better and faster for the next level.

Much of the training I have observed involves spending time with key people in the sales and catering department for the first few weeks and then basically leaving them to fend for themselves after that. Many hotels send new people to a few days of classroom training once a year and conduct periodic workshops at the hotel. This just isn't enough.

Continuing education every week

I am firmly convinced that sales people should be involved in continuing education at all times and spend time weekly preparing for the next level. Because people come from different backgrounds, knowledge and skills training should be tailored for each individual's background.

For a new sales person

The following outline is for a new sales person. I recommend that you outline subject matter and fill in the details later using information from existing materials. Another approach is to have the person being trained do the research to develop the material.

  • Sales automation system

  • Selling basics: grooming and dress, business etiquette

  • Company policies that affect us

  • Product knowledge, including rates

  • Other hotel departments: emphasis on front office and catering

  • Competition knowledge

  • Customer needs by market segment

  • Selling skills

  • Overcoming objections

  • Stock presentations

  • Tour of hotel (20-30 minutes)

  • Telephone presentation

  • Strategies for various market segments

  • Reporting system

  • Media advertising basics

  • Direct mail basics

  • Public relations basics

  • Negotiating basics

  • Revenue enhancement programs

In addition, written tests, mystery shopping, calls with more experienced sales people and review of solicitation for files with most potential should take place on a regular basis.

Additional training assignments should be added as developed so the sales person always has assignments that will help in development for the next level.

Developing a formal training program will accomplish more every time than the thousands of hit-or-miss training programs that most sales people receive. That's a guarantee.

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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