A Two-Step That Never Gets Out of Date

A young corporate sales manager recently asked me, “What should I do to improve my production?” I thought for a moment and then answered, “There are hundreds of things you can do but there are two things you can do that stand out in my mind: 1) Increase the number of prospecting calls you make on good prospects and, concurrently, 2) improve your selling techniques to increase the percentage of business booked from your prospecting efforts.

Increase the number of prospecting calls you make on good prospects. Over the years, I've become a great believer in laws of average. I firmly believe that if I make calls on 100 prospects and everything else is equal, I will book twice as much business than if I make calls on 50 prospects.

If I find that I book one out of 10, then every time a prospect turns me down I move one step closer to booking some business. It's simply a matter of the law of averages. Let's compare two sales departments of six people each. You can walk in on Tuesday morning, spend three hours casually observing overall activity and walk away with the impression that personnel from both departments are very busy.

Let's say that later you're surprised to find that one of those hotels is running an annual occupancy of 83 percent while the other is operating at 63 percent. If you check the activities of each department, you'll find that personnel from the 83-percent hotel make 100 prospecting calls a week on people they never contacted before, while the 63-percent hotel only makes four prospecting calls.

I've checked activity levels at literally hundreds of hotels, and in the vast majority of cases the properties aren't doing much prospecting. Increase the number of calls your sales department makes from 10 a week to 100 per week and you'll see improvement beyond your wildest dreams.

And don't forget to keep continuous records of prospecting calls made and business booked so you can gauge your ongoing improvement.

It's also a good idea to involve your sales and catering assistants in the prospecting efforts. Everyone should complete at least one prospecting call a day.

Improve your selling techniques to increase the percentage of business booked from your prospecting efforts. Once you're achieving a good average number of prospecting calls by your people, it makes sense to improve the percentage booked. This can be done by improving your selling techniques on both prospecting calls and incoming inquiries. Set the scene by keeping separate records on a board of prospecting calls and inquiry calls and keeping track of the number of appointments made to tour the hotel and definite bookings made. Include prizes for the best efforts.

A good way to improve selling techniques is to trade techniques and methods that work at short sales meetings every morning and a formal teaching session every week.

When I was a new salesperson at the Waldorf=Astoria, I remember presenting sales problems I was having to the members of the sales team — all of whom had more experience than I — for their suggestions. Nothing improved my techniques more than these sessions.

In addition, role playing of sales calls in front of the members of the team can be extremely helpful. The key to improving your sales calls is to make it a continuing effort. It's fair to say that most sales people don't have a formal program to improve their selling. We need to remember that selling techniques must be worked on throughout our careers, not just for a three-day workshop that tries to cram a thousand techniques into our heads.

Our business seems complicated sometimes, but we should always remember that it's as simple as increasing the calls and improving those selling techniques. When you do, it becomes easier and easier.

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 ttmccarthy@hotelpros.org or 703-379-4488.

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