You’re in an owner’s review meeting, and your hotel owner asks, “Why did our comp set beat us? What did they have that we didn’t have?”. What do you respond? Continually saying “I don’t know” is not star behavior. We must be great “star analyzers” of STR (Smith Travel Research) reports, and hotel GMs and sales managers must keep track of what’s going on in our communities, areas, and in competitive hotels.
When reviewing your weekly STR reports, it is as imperative to understand what made you win over the comp set, as to understand what caused you lose to your competitors. Knowing what you have won is the easy part. The proof is in the pudding. The key is to understand what you lost — and that requires diligence, record-keeping, and research — all star qualities!
How many of you keep track of groups you are requested to bid on? Do you have a general area events calendar showing everything that is going on for the year? For future years? Knowing the events that affect occupancy in hotels is critical to the future performance of your sales teams. (It will also help you with future prospecting.) Knowing what is coming to your market in advance gives you an advantage to securing repeat business AND business you might have lost the previous year.
So how do you get this info? Here are a few ideas,
- Call arounds. It’s not scientific or original but it works. If you know the area is busy and you don’t know why, try calling to make a reservation at a hotel in your comp set. When they quote an unusually high rate for your area, ask in a surprized tone of voice, “oh wow – you are the third hotel I’ve called today with higher than normal rates. What’s going on that is making the rates so high?” (Great actors are stars!) Some GSRs and reservationists might be naive enough to spill the beans to you (there’s a big wedding this weekend, or we have a group meeting over those days, or we have a lot of rooms for the hockey tournament at the expo center). Don’t be afraid to ask. You may have to task your friends or family to make calls so comp hotels don’t start to recognize your voice (especially in smaller markets). Call at different times each day (night audit), and use different generic phones that don’t offer your caller ID info.
- Drive parking lots. Don’t be afraid to snap pictures of logoed vehicles or stop people in the parking lots to ask questions. If you think other hotels aren’t in your parking lots or eating your breakfast, doing the same thing, then you’re crazy.
- Start a lead file. Use an expandable folder or individual files. Set up months (January through December). Each time you respond to a lead, make a copy and put in the appropriate month of the event/group. If you don’t want to waste paper by making copies, then just keep a running list in that month. If you win the group, go back and mark the sheet with a star. If you lose the group, mark with a red X. Keep these sheets in the appropriate month file and when the STR report comes out you should be able to make an educated guess as to what affected occupancies. Or,
- Start an opportunity calendar. Similar to a lead file, but without the files. Take an old or unused calendar (or print out calendar pages) or start a digital calendar on your computer, and every time you get a call or bid request, go to the date of the event (not the date you received the bid request) and mark it down. For example, you might jot down, 11/18/17 – ABC Group, 20 rooms for 3 nights. $109. This represents the date of the event, name of group, how many rooms/room nights, and rate quoted. If you win the group, go in and mark with a star or highlight in green. If you don’t win the group, mark with an X or highlight in red. (The opportunity calendar should not replace your trace files for follow up of events… this is only to be used for future research about what MIGHT have been in your area over a specific timeframe, and for an explanation as to why your comp set MIGHT have out-performed your hotel on future STR reports.)
- Ask. Be a star sales person and know the status of every group. Talk to your customers face-to-face or voice-to-voice. Network. Email is a great convenience, but it is a crutch sometimes. Call customers and ASK them where they are going and why. This is part of the sales process. Ask the customer, “what other hotels or areas are you considering for this event?” “What amenities or features will be important to you as you make your decision?” Being able to sell means knowing the competition and being able to offer selling points to each of their strengths and your weaknesses. Do you have a printed features/benefits sheet handy?
As I noted above, none of the above is truly scientific. And yes, I am sure there are programs out there that might be better solutions. (For example, Marriott has a tool called Mad About Market Share. In that tool is a “historical” tab that allows you to make notes on dates. These notes are important to future sales strategies.)
What do you use? Do you have a hard/digital file that is in date order? Do you use a sales program that includes denied or lost business?
Use what works for you and your hotel. If the Star quality fits, use it!
Happy star gazing!