Tag Archives: meetings

Top 4 Sales Tips for Success

28 Jan

While there are many great tips for increasing your effectiveness as a sales person, these consistently prove to be among the top 4 sales tips.

  1. Demonstrate Respect
    When you take the time to learn a client’s business and her professional needs, you’re demonstrating respect for her as a client and a person. This might sound simple, but it is no longer the norm and therefore bears repeating. Given the easy access to information via the web, there really isn’t any excuse for not doing the homework needed before calling. A “cold call” should be “warmer” with our present day access to data.
  2. Respond Promptly
    There is nothing that loses a sale faster than not returning a phone call or email in a timely manner. Understandably, you won’t always have an answer to a client’s questions or share the same sense of urgency that she has, but at least demonstrate “signs of life” when she leaves a message or sends an email. By responding to her call/email, you’re at least acknowledging receipt and providing an estimated time for delivery of the information requested. That said, be sure to meet that deadline with the necessary information and/or a status update.
  3. Communicate Effectively
    Many of you who know me are aware of my personal disdain for written or electronic communication that includes multiple font types, font colors, and font sizes. The most flagrant of these occurs when someone has obviously “copy/pasted” a section of the email from another email or document. If you’re going to do this, at least take the time and demonstrate the professionalism to ensure that ALL fonts are consistent throughout your communication. Failure to do so gives the impression that you are not a person with attention to detail. For me personally, this would make me question your attention to detail in the handling of my business.
  4. Create a Long Term Relationship
    Granted, not every piece of business will be the right fit, at the right time, at the right price. However, the care, respect, and attention given during the sales process will provide future success. If clients are treated as partners in business, they will be more likely to refer others and use your product or services in the future. Customer service is the most frequent differentiating factor in making a sale.

We can automate many processes, but people still do business with people, and there’s not an app for that!

Networking is Not for Dummies

18 Dec

Successful networking is more than just walking up to strangers at an event, introducing yourself and your business, exchanging business cards, and closing with a handshake and a promise to call. Successful networking requires planning. It’s essentially like going on a group sales call. You have to prepare a plan, lay some groundwork ahead of the event, and define measurable goals for yourself. Fortunately, the Internet has made all of these steps so much easier and less time-consuming.

Who will be attending the event? Whether it’s a holiday party, the Chamber of Commerce breakfast, or an association meeting, knowing your audience is important. Make some phone calls; ask to see the RSVP list; and review your list of business prospects to seek out those target-rich attendees that you want to meet.

What is your networking goal? Do you want to meet a potential client that has been unwilling to set an appointment? Or, do you want to meet someone you’ve only heard about in your business community? Knowing what your goal is will also help you determine if the networking event was successful. (I always love asking sales people if the event was successful and they say “yes.” Then, when I ask what made it a success, they appear stunned as though it’s a trick question.)

How are you going to prepare for success?

  • Make a realistic list of people who you would like to meet and why. What can they contribute to your business and what can you contribute to their business? Successful networking is a win-win proposition.
  • Use LinkedIn to see if those individuals are “connected” to others in your LinkedIn network. Then, reach out to those you know and ask them to introduce you either by email prior to the event or at the event.
  • Determine the objective you would like to achieve. Do you want to ask for business, to set an appointment, or to establish just the first step pending a phone follow-up?
  • Learn what interests your prospects enjoy. With the Internet and social media, it’s not hard to learn something about a person’s hobbies, reading interests, favorite sports teams, or travel experiences. See if you have anything in common outside of the business. Something you might be able to use to lead into a conversation. Caution: There’s a difference between doing some research and stalking. You don’t want to come across creepy, just interesting.
  • Be knowledgeable. Read the news the day before and day of a networking event. Try to hit the following sections: Sports, Money, and Weather. You’ll notice that I stay away from politics or local government. (Politics, religion, and local government are still taboo topics and far too unstable to use in your first meeting with a prospect.) This information will help you in any conversation.
  • Be a good listener. This sounds so old-fashion and redundant, but you’ll find your best conversations are the ones where you listen more than you talk. Effective listening skills give a lot of insight into the other person’s business needs, problems, and how you might be able to solve them with your product or service.
  • Ask educated questions. Do your homework. Learn about your client’s business, their competitors, and the environment in which they operate. As the saying goes, “people have to know that you care before they care what you know.” Demonstrating knowledge of their company and that you’re willing to put in the effort to learn about them will go a long way.
  • Be authentic. Be honest. Be responsive. There’s nothing that can ruin a reputation or relationship faster than inauthenticity and dishonesty. If you don’t know, say so. If you don’t care, don’t pretend. And, if you say you’re going to do something, do it.

Networking can be a very positive and productive experience. Take the time and effort to make the most of each contact along the way.

The Conundrum of Paralysis by Analysis

27 Apr

Many years ago in a land far, far away I worked for a boss that suffered from “paralysis by analysis” in her search for “riskless risk.” As the proverbial Knights of the Roundtable, otherwise known as her Executive Team, each week we thrashed our way through the jungle of data, risk assessments, and possible alternative outcomes. Unfortunately, our quests often resulted in a dead-end. Why? Well, no decisions were ever made until the decisions made themselves. In other words, her indecision resulted in the least innovative and risk-free decisions. Additionally, no new results were generated since the “decisions” kept the business static. Her fear of making the wrong decision resulted in a stagnate company allowing others soar passed us.

How does this happen?
Every year or so, the business world identifies buzzwords/phrases that become common colloquialisms in boardrooms and executive offices around the world.

  • This could be a “game changer.”
  • We need to go after the “low hanging fruit.”
  • He’s a real “thought leader.”
  • We want to be “industry leaders.”
  • We need to be “innovative.”
  • We need to “get ahead of the curve.”

While these are great phrases to add into sales and marketing proposals, as well as year-end reports to corporate offices, they all have a couple of things in common. First, they need to be effectively sandwiched between a strategic plan on the front end and measurable goals/metrics on the back-end. Second, everyone around the table needs to accept that there is a certain level of risk and potential failure on the road to success. Identifying and evaluating that risk is the responsibility of managers. Being willing to shoulder an acceptable threshold for risk is the responsibility of a leader. And therein lies the rub.

Paralysis by Analysis
If this term doesn’t sound familiar, then let me explain the symptoms of the disease. The overall company or work group goals have been agreed upon. Then, each member of the team is tasked to research options, alternatives, and projected outcomes. Lastly, the team reassembles for a two-hour meeting and everyone throws his work on the table. The group goes through each scenario upon which discussion and brainstorming ensues for the greater portion of the two hours. With minutes left on the clock, the boss asks for the recommended plan of action. In other words, what decisions should be made based on the previous week’s work and this one hour and forty-five minute meeting?

Have you guessed the punch line? That’s right, no decisions were made. Instead, the topics were sent back to “committees” to explore further options and come back to the group with recommendations. So, the next question is why? Weren’t the options presented viable ones? Didn’t anyone agree with anything that was recommended? In fact, there were several options that could have been approved. Actually, there were an over-abundance of suggestions that could have yielded decisions. So what happened? Quite simply, the fear of making the wrong decision or alienating those on the opposing side of the decision now paralyzed everyone from making any decision.

Riskless Risk
If 2+2 equals 4, then you don’t run a risk of waking up one day to find that 2+2 equals 5. That’s riskless risk. In other words, riskless risk does not exist. Moreover, the best decisions are only deemed successful after they’re made. If you have the ability to look into the future and know that your risky decisions are going to all pay off, then head to Las Vegas and win big! After all, when a smart risk is taken, the joy of success is that much more rewarding. And, if you’re fearful that one wrong decision, no matter how small, will bring down your company/organization, then you’ve built your company/organization on a house of cards.

When you make educated decisions in a timely manner you move your organization along the path to success. Evaluate your threshold for risk and move forward with confidence.

Is Your Hotel Really Committed to Social Media Marketing?

3 Feb

Let’s be honest, few hotels have the human resources to commit to a full-time manager for their social media marketing effort. So, in order to still participate in the social networks, hotel brands and franchises take a cluster approach to their social media program. They group their hotels by brand, geographic territory, or destination and centrally post to all hotels in that grouping. While this may be cost-effective, are they achieving the results they expect? Are they generating sales leads, increasing restaurant patrons, and enhancing their customer experience?

Providing engaging and property-specific content on a regular basis takes time. It also requires a strategic plan and the ability to manage and adjust that plan as needed. If you can’t afford to hire a full-time employee on-site, then look to outsourcing your content or social media services. However, you will definitely want someone who understands both your hotel, the industry in general, and social media marketing. Social media marketing is now a professional discipline not a trend. Just because a college student can use Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and take a “selfie” doesn’t mean they understand the business of hotels or more importantly, the sales and marketing process. In other words, just because I know how to drive a car doesn’t mean you want me to rebuild your car’s engine.

Effectively participating in Twitter and Facebook encourages your sales prospects to become more engaged in what you have to offer and more inclined to make a booking or contact you directly. If your Twitter or Facebook strategies aren’t providing measurable or at least trackable results, determine why and adjust accordingly.

Daily monitoring of Google Analytics allows hotels to track visitors to each landing page, determine where in the sales process potential page visitors are likely to be, and then deliver a clear and effective call-to-action that will drive them to make hotel reservations, restaurant reservations or book a catering event.

Remember, one of the best features of social media is the relative low-cost or no cost associated with this marketing vehicle. Photos can be candid shots or pictures taken by guests. Sales departments can create videos in-house without fancy equipment. Photos and videos are great and should be strategic in their frequency and audience. One of the best byproducts of videos is that it increases your hotel’s search engine optimization organically. A couple of hotels that have done a nice job are The Westin Atlanta Airport, Atlanta, Georgia, and Boca Raton Resort, Boca Raton, Florida.

Having spent over twenty years in hotel sales and marketing, the best part of my job was the personal interaction with guests, clients, and colleagues. Making a personal and human connection with people is one of the key touchstones of a successful hotel. Why not use your social media marketing plan to further that engagement before, during, and after your clients come to your hotel? Make your hotel more than just a destination…make it a community.

Resetting Expectations

7 Mar

I was enjoying my morning ritual of coffee, newspaper, and favorite morning talk show when the host brought up the topic of our 24/7 work lives. He used the term “reset expectations.” My ears perked up. This is such a great phrase. Let’s face it, the lines between “work hours “and “personal time” have become blurred by the accessibility that mobile technology provides. We have become inextricably connected to our jobs and as such, we begin to respond to every email regardless of the time of day or the level of importance. So, how do we regain control of our lives and our jobs? We reset expectations.

What is Resetting Expectations?
If we answer our emails within minutes of receiving them regardless of the day of the week or time of the day/night, then we have set an expectation. Our clients, friends, colleagues, now expect to receive a response immediately. If they don’t, they will send the infamous “did you get my email” email reminding us that we usually respond within seconds of the “read receipt.” Furthermore, we begin to feel guilty or negligent if we don’t respond right away. Well, unless someone’s life or safety hangs in the balance, that email can probably wait until I’m back in the office tomorrow. We need to “reset expectations” so we can regain balance in our lives.

Triage Your To Do List
I think we can all agree that the volume of email requests, text messages, and comments from our social media connections inhibits our ability to manage our time most effectively. The first step in resetting expectations is to establish a triage process. The dictionary defines triage as: (1) “The determination of priorities for action in an emergency.” (2)”The process of sorting victims, as of a battle or disaster, to determine medical priority in order to increase the number of survivors.” We’re probably all more familiar with the medical application. If we go to the emergency room, the first place they send us (after collecting insurance and verifying payment) is to “Triage.” In that room a nurse makes an assessment of the urgency of our situation and prioritizes our condition relative to others.

In medical triage, we wouldn’t want someone awaiting a rhinoplasty procedure to go into surgery before a patient in need of heart bypass surgery. While the person awaiting their nose job thinks it’s pretty important, of course everything can’t be equally important. If we want to reset expectations we need to triage our requests from friends, family, clients, and colleagues to ensure the most important things are getting done first and the most important emails are being answered first. It doesn’t mean we don’t love everyone equally, it just means that we need to be more efficient, healthy, and at peace.

Communicate Expectations
Of course we can’t reset our expectations in a vacuum. We need to communicate with our clients, colleagues, and family so there isn’t any misunderstanding. Suggestions:

  • Evaluate the scope of services you have with your clients and ensure you communicate and mutually agree upon the times you will be accessible. Set/reset the expectation of a reasonable time frame for discussions, deadlines, and status updates.
  • Use your auto-reply. Don’t just say you’re out of the office. Instead, be specific about the day, date, and times you will be unavailable and leave emergency contact information.
  • Show some self-discipline. Just because you can answer that email quickly, don’t. Unless you’re sitting in the dentist office with nothing else to do, chances are it’s an interruption to what you’re doing at the moment.
  • Put down the Blackberry and iPhone during family/social time! We all do it subconsciously. We reach for our phones, glance at our emails, look away from our conversations, and convey (though unintentionally) the message that something may come across our phone that’s more important than the person/people we’re with at the time.

Warning: I’m going to try to reset my expectations. While I am eager to receive your comments, feedback, and most of all suggestions, I will not be checking my blog via phone during dinner this evening.

Plan a Meeting Like a Wedding

23 Dec

When planning a wedding, the bride essentially becomes an event planner. She picks the location, colors, flowers, décor, music, apparel, and menu. She selects a photographer, the bridal party, the level of formality of the event, and a theme. Regardless of her budget, these are the basic components most brides will have on their checklist.

While your next meeting or convention may not be the life changing, seminal moment of a wedding, it is just as important to consider using a  similar checklist. Far too often, meeting planners (whether professionals or volunteers) neglect to ensure a synergy and continuity in their planning checklist. So what do I mean?

Determine A Global Theme
An effective theme is a unifying or dominant idea or motif. Select a theme that is specific yet not so restrictive that it doesn’t allow for creativity or flexibility. Give thought to the objective of the meeting, targeted speakers, and expectations of the attendees. Ask the questions: Will this theme prompt interest in the meeting? Does this theme sound relevant? Can this theme be easily defined and communicated in print and video?

Design A Logo Representative of Theme
Your logo is a graphic representation or symbol of your event. Design a logo that will flexible enough for shirts, marketing materials, digital media, and easily recognizable as a symbol of the theme.  Select colors that will be easy to replicate and utilize throughout the conference.

Plan Programming Consistent with Theme
Ensure that there is a common thread that connects the speakers with the theme. Continuity of speakers, topics, and themed events increases the level of professionalism regardless of the size of the meeting or convention. Is it a medical convention, educational convention, or industry-specific convention? Use the nature of the programming to provide the cues to the theme.

Select Décor Reflective of Theme
Create a color palette and decorations that are consistent with the theme and match or complement the logo, marketing materials and convention/meeting program book. Decorations don’t require a high price tag. This is an area where creativity and innovation often result in a greater impact than high-ticket purchases. Most importantly, carry the theme throughout the convention. The aforementioned elements of the theme should begin with the marketing of the convention and continue on site from registration through a closing banquet.

Pull It All Together
So how do you ensure that you’ve covered your bases? A successful meeting/convention requires planning, creativity, and restraint. The most effective way to do this is to continue to ask and answer the following questions:

  • How does this communicate our message?
  • How does this contribute to the program?
  • How does this enhance the attendee experience?
  • How does this make the event unique and memorable?

Accordingly, if an aspect of your meeting doesn’t answer or address one or more of the above questions, you may want to reevaluate it’s viability.

Happy planning!

Is Hotel Sales Still a Sales Process?

2 Dec

I spent more than twenty wonderful years in hotel sales and marketing. Now, for the last few years I’ve been working in association management. A great deal of my time is spent planning meetings. That said, a recent experience led me to ask myself, “is hotel sales still a sales process?”

So what led me to this question? Well, I recently sent a request for proposal out to several hotels in three distinctly different parts of the country. I sent the RFP out via email two full weeks prior to the deadline for submissions. I called all of the hotels first to ensure I was emailing the correct person in the sales office. Days passed and I didn’t hear or receive anything from the hotels. I was puzzled. I never expect to hear from everyone, but it was odd to not hear from someone. Question, “should I have to work this hard to get a response from hotels I’m trying to send business to?

What to Do with a Meeting Planner’s RFP

  • Email me and let me know you received the RFP and indicate that you will call me within 24-hours to discuss my program.
  • Call me within 24-hours as promised and be prepared to give me your rates, dates, and availability…or at least an update on where you are in the process of providing me with that information.
  • Send me a proposal. If you cannot accommodate my program or it’s not a good fit for your hotel, suggest alternatives.
  • If none of these alternatives work, ask if you can send my RFP to one of your other hotels or to a sales colleague at another hotel where my program may be more appropriate.

What Not to Do
Please don’t just ignore the RFP because you don’t have availability or the rooms-to-space ratio doesn’t fit your hotel’s criteria. And, please don’t send an email that simply reads, “Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate your group. Thank you for considering our hotel.”

What Non-Responsiveness Indicates
First, it indicates that you don’t think my business is worth a phone call. Second, you either don’t have time for a new client or the sales staff is understaffed – – neither of which gives a meeting planner a warm and fuzzy feeling.

What You Don’t Know

  • I manage multiple associations and plan multiple meetings from 25 attendees to more than 1,000 attendees.
  • My first impression of a hotel is when I send the RFP. If you are not timely and detailed with the response to my RFP, how can I expect this will improve if I book my group with your hotel?
  • Meeting planners get the best information about a hotel from other meeting planners. Referrals and caveats spread quickly.

All that said, I must give a well-deserved shout-out to some of the best sales managers I’ve worked with lately who clearly understand the appropriate way to respond to an inquiry: Gwen Spencer at the Westin Atlanta Airport, Andrea Richey formerly at the Chateau Bourbon Hotel, and Lisa Miller formerly from the Renaissance St. Augustine. They make every piece of business seem important to them and that will put them at the top of my list of recommendations. They set the bar.

To the many sales managers that are handling leads/inquiries appropriately, thank you. To those that still need improvement, hotel sales is a wonderful profession. In fact, to the many who “do it right” it’s a vocation. Take the time to learn and enjoy selling your hotels. More importantly, take the time to learn and enjoy the sales process.

 

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