Asking For The Sale = Increased Bookings

I read an article today entitled “Ask for the Sale to Increase Bookings by 440%” so of course I was intrigued.  The article did not disappoint…. in fact it reminded me of a memo I sent many moons ago to my front desk staff at the Holiday Inn & Suites/Vero Beach.

At that time in my career, I was a relatively new GM taking over a hotel that was producing revenue hand over foot!  So, why does this article remind me of this time and this hotel…. what were they doing wrong?  Well, the simple answer is that their service scores and relationships with the customers were very poor – in fact, despite the fact that they were one of the highest revenue producing Holiday Inns in the system, they were at risk of losing their flag because of service.

In that memo, and through subsequent front desk training, we explored some very simple sales techniques, to show the customer we really WANTED their business, and would WORK hard to earn it.  We needed to prove that just because we were a good hotel in a great location, that we were not going to just rest on our laurels and take our money to the bank – but in fact, we were going to go out of our way to make the customer happy that they were spending $200-300 per night to stay in our hotel.

Some of those basic sales techniques that we used were identified in the above named article.  I have copied the entire article below, but here are a couple of the key points:

  • When the GSR/Sales Person performed ‘the simple act of offering to secure the reservation, the caller was 4.4 times more likely to book the reservation.’  Are your agents and sales persons ASKING for every the sale 100% of the time?  It is as simple as saying, “would you like me to reserve this room for you?” or “shall I prepare a contract reflecting our conversation today?”
  • ‘When agents refuse to give up and instead use any number of methods, such as reiterating the value, creating urgency, or removing barriers to booking now, callers who initially resist are 12.6 times more likely to book the room.’  Your GSR/Sales Person needs to be comfortable in the selling processes.  This means that they need to role play, need to practice selling, and they need to know what their selling parameters are for their hotel.  I have often told our FOMs and GMs that they need to create a ‘box of empowerment’ for the front desk ….. the figurative rate box where the GSR/Sales Person can fall back in rate without asking for permission.  For this to be effective however, you and your staff must understand that the goals are to maximize rate for every reservation or walk in, without losing the sale.  Do you have white boards in the back office where the “rate of the day” is posted?  If not, create your war boards now!
  • ‘Closing the sale starts with the opening greeting and a positive first impression.’  I called one of our hotels yesterday.  The GSR answering the phone said, in a slow, clear, positive and upbeat voice, “Thank you for calling the award-winning Fairfield Inn & Suites Fort Wayne, my name is Justin, how may I help you?”  I was flabbergasted, and HAPPY!  How many times have you called a hotel to hear, “Good nldidnwld, thank you for calling xlknelskj telyfmbj, this is xljkneljdl” (no, those aren’t typos, that is gobbly-d-goop language!)  IMMEDIATELY, I was excited to continue the call.  My first reaction was to say, “congratulations!”  Are your customers excited to call your hotel?  More importantly, are they excited to talk to your people and spend their money at your hotel?  (By the way, if you want to email or call the GM and/or Sales person and congratulate them on their Silver Service Award from Marriott – you should do so!)
  • ‘Using the caller’s name made it 2.5 times more likely that the caller would want to secure the reservation.’  Have you heard the phrase, “people buy from people they like?”
  • ‘Rather than simply reading a list of features, use vivid adjectives when describing rooms, grounds, views, and room attributes results in the caller being 1.6 times more likely to book the room.’  In our world, this is called feature-benefit selling.  Pick adjectives that real people use, not annoying, artsy, unnecessary language.  I once had a GSR who was so over the top in her descriptions that she actually turned the customers off!  Be real, use words you want to hear.  Make a list of great adjectives and tape it up by the phone.  Better yet, use your daily stand up or departmental meetings to create phrases and descriptions that everyone agrees on, fit into your property identity slogan and hotel brand culture!
  • Lastly – they had a list of training tips for your meetings:
    • Always ask for the caller’s name and use it conversationally throughout the call.
    • Determine whether the caller has stayed previously, and if they haven’t then paint a picture of the hotel experience using vivid language, rather than listing available features.
    • Remind your staff that closing the sale benefits everyone, including the caller as it ensures availability and locks-in the rate.
    • When caller’s resist an initial attempt to secure the sale, ask questions such as “Is there something special you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned?” to find out if the caller has a “product” or price objection.
    • For “product” objections, offer alternatives and reiterate benefits of what you “do” have and what “is” available.
    • For price objections, reiterate value.   If low to moderate demand, offer lower-rated room options or specials.
    • Create urgency and remove barriers to booking right now and ask for the sale again.

Every person in your hotel is a sales person – give them a leg up so that they (and you) are comfortable in the sales scenario.

So, the moral to my story goes back to that same hotel in Vero Beach.  After 7 months of tweaking the product and training the staff, we moved from the default list to the most improved hotel in the system list.  Baby steps folks – let’s get back to basics!

Happy increasing bookings!

Linda

 

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Ask For The Sale To Increase Bookings By 440%

By Doug KennedyAugust 1, 2012After more than 20 years in the business of front desk and reservations sales training, I’m extremely excited that a new white paper study has confirmed what we trainers have known all along: training our staff to ask for the sale will increase the likelihood of getting the business.

The study which is entitled “The Factors That Lead to More Reservations:  A Statistical Analysis of Scored Phone Calls and Bookings,” is a collaborative effort between ContactPoint LLC and Dr. Kyle Wells, PHD, MBA, of the Udvar-Hazy School of Business at Dixie State College.

ContactPoint and Dr. Wells analyzed 4400 recorded actual phone calls from 30 hotels in 14 states.  The population included hotels from market segments including economy through upscale.  The calls analyzed were not “staged” mystery shopping calls, but rather real calls from real hotel prospects recorded using ContactPoint’s LogMyCalls call tracking and monitoring tool.  The researcher’s objective was to find out what specific actions, words, and tactics increased the likelihood of the caller committing to a reservation.

As a hotel sales trainer, what stands out the most for me is that the simple act of offering to secure the reservation made the caller 4.4 times more likely to book the reservation.   Put another way, that means the hotel or call center has a 440% greater chance to get the sale if the agent just asks.   Yet the study also found that hotel Guest Services Agents (GSR’s) in the study only asked for the sale 52% of the time; call centers ask even less frequently at just 42%.   With a sales tactic as important as this, it makes one wonder why this is not used 100% of the time.

The results also found another huge area of opportunity, which is to train the staff to overcome resistance to booking.  The study found that in 610 of the 4400 calls analyzed, the potential guest exhibited some resistance to reserving a room.  This resistance ranged from the price being too high, to the property not being centrally located, to the potential guest just calling for “information.” Regardless of the reason for the caller’s resistance, the findings show that persistence pays off more than any other single thing a GSR or reservations agent could do.   When agents refuse to give up and instead use any number of methods, such as reiterating the value, creating urgency, or removing barriers to booking now, callers who initially resist are 12.6 times more likely to book the room.

It goes without saying that simply asking for the sale and overcoming resistance alone will not alone increase call conversation rates, and the study confirmed the influence of other factors as well.  As a trainer I’ve often said that closing the sale starts with the opening greeting and a positive first impression.  The study seems to support this philosophy.

The results revealed advantages to using other sales basics, such as using the caller’s name, which made it 2.5 times more likely that the caller would want to secure the reservation.    The findings also suggested that rather than simply reading a list of features, using vivid adjectives when describing the rooms, the grounds, the views, and the room attributes, results in the caller being 1.6 times more likely to book the room.

Taken collectively, if all of these sales essentials are used consistently by all GSR’s or reservations agents, the potential impact on call conversion can be very significant.

Even if your hotel, resort, vacation rental, or call center is not within the demographics of the survey’s mainstream population, the results seem to prove a direct correlation between the use of basic sales tactics and increased call capture rates.

It is a great reminder of the importance of training and coaching every associate who is staffing “The Storefront Window” of your hotel or resort.  Take a moment to calculate the potential ROI on even a small increase in call conversion.

First calculate the potential value of every transient phone call you receive:

  • Transient average rate x transient average stay.
  • Add “Average revenue per guest” if you are a full service hotel or resort with numerous revenue generating outlets.  (i.e. Spa, golf, F&B, gaming, retail.)

Then take that potential revenue per booking and calculate the potential revenue if every GSR or reservations agent got justone more sale per shift.    Although the resulting number should be enough to catch the attention of the executive management team,  this study now shows that the ROI could be significantly more than one more booking per day.

Here are some training tips for your next in-house meeting:

  • Always ask for the caller’s name and use it conversationally throughout the call.
  • Determine whether the caller has stayed previously, and if they haven’t then paint a picture of the hotel experience using vivid language, rather than listing available features.
  • Remind your staff that closing the sale benefits everyone, including the caller as it ensures availability and locks-in the rate.
  • When caller’s resist an initial attempt to secure the sale, ask questions such as “Is there something special you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned?” to find out if the caller has a “product” or price objection.
  • For “product” objections, offer alternatives and reiterate benefits of what you “do” have and what “is” available.
  • For price objections, reiterate value.   If low to moderate demand, offer lower-rated room options or specials.
  • Create urgency and remove barriers to booking right now and ask for the sale again.

By training your GSRs and Reservations Agents to use sales techniques such as these, your hotel will not only convert more inquiry calls into bookings, and along the way provide a positive first impression of your hotel’s overall levels of guest service excellence.

 

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