The Road to Sales Success in the First Year

I just don't think I'm cut out for hotel sales. Months have gone by since I went into sales and I'm getting more discouraged every day. My boss is unhappy. I'm unhappy. Maybe I should try another line of work because it just isn't worth the frustration I face every day.”

If you're a sales supervisor, one or more of your first-year salespeople may be thinking along these lines at this very moment. It's important that you make your new salespeople aware that they aren't alone, that the discouragement and frustration they'll experience to some degree after a few months in sales have been faced by virtually every person who ever went into the field.

The good news is that this is simply a period all salespeople go through on their way to selling success and, although it creates some painful memories, I believe top-notch salespeople wouldn't be nearly as proud of their accomplishments if it weren't for the difficulties they experienced and overcame while paying their dues.

The great majority of new salespeople normally go through five stages during their first several months in sales:

Enthusiasm stage

This is the initial stage in which both the salesperson and the sales supervisor are enthusiastic. The salesperson is nervous but looking forward to the new challenge. At this stage, the new salesperson isn't expected to book a lot of business and doesn't yet feel “room-night pressure.”

Self-doubt/reassurance stage.

Usually after the first two or three months, the salesperson starts to have self-doubts because the bookings aren't coming in as fast as hoped. However, at this stage you, as supervisor, should reassure the salesperson that everything is on schedule. (“Don't be discouraged. Give it some time.”)

Double doubt stage

After two or three more months have passed and the bookings still aren't coming in, you may notice the salesperson has greater self-doubt than before, particularly since it is now obvious that you're also getting a little nervous and starting to wonder when the salesperson's efforts will pay off.

Crossroads stage

At this point your salesperson's career can go in one of two directions: the person can continue to plug away hoping that success will come or give up sales and go into another line of work, believing that he/she wasn't cut out for sales in the first place.

In the case of a career change at this crucial stage, neither you nor the salesperson will ever see the results of the hard work invested over the several months leading up to the decision. This is a shame, because every hard-working salesperson experiences the greatest degree of discouragement just before the breakthrough to success.

Breakthrough stage

Here is when the hard work of the past months pays off and you'll notice the salesperson starts to book business on a regular basis.

As a loyal customer base builds, this stage becomes even more satisfying as repeat business is added to bookings. Whereas, in the past, the salesperson always initiated the calls on prospects to solicit business, now satisfied customers start calling the salesperson.

This combination of new and repeat business bookings has a snowball effect on total business booked that would not have seemed possible just a few months previous.

As sales supervisor, you can help a new salesperson through the five stages by first explaining the stages and then letting the person know that all salespeople go through the same frustrations and discouragement before breaking through to sales success.

And don't forget to coach and counsel your new people for a few minutes every day as they go through the crucial five stages. Nothing builds confidence as much as knowing that you are standing behind them and want them to succeed.

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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