Who Was That “Masked” Caller?

Sales people are often tested by their owners and managers, for effective sales call techniques.  Most often, these are done to make sure that the sales person covers all the bases, and is constantly honing their technique.  Sometimes, if a sales person seems to be “out of sorts” or having a run of “missing” out on business, a manager will employ a shopping service to discover where the problems lay.

This is a great time of year (new year…. new staff…. ) to fine tune our call agendas/check-lists and make sure we are following good sales techniques.  Most “mystery shoppers” speak from a check sheet that is divided into the following categories:  Phone, Qualifying Needs, Presentation Skills, and Closing the Sale.  These calls may be limited to one contact, or their evaluations can be based on follow-up calls.

Let’s address the “ideal” sales call,

Phone

Did the sales associate answer their phone within 4 rings or less?  Did they use their name when you answered the call?  Was their greeting pleasant and professional?  Were they polite and easily understood?  Before rushing the call to business at hand, did they try to establish rapport by engaging in friendly, non-business conversation?  Did the they use your name more than once during the call? Overall, was the sales associate professional and did he/she use good phone etiquette?

I think this section is very important and sets the tone of the overall call.  There is nothing worse than trying to converse with someone who is rushed, monotone, and snippy.  Before our sales associates ever pick up the phone, they need to take a deep breath and let what they were doing before the phone rang, slide off their backs.  Each caller deserves your full attention and positive attitude.  One trick of the trade is to hang a small mirror over your phone.  Statistics prove that when people see themselves smiling when they pick up the phone, they convey a smile in their voice.

S L O W  D O W N.  There is nothing worse than the caller not understanding a garbled greeting.  “Goodmorningsalesthisislinda”.  You automatically put the customer ill at ease.  Take your time.  Customize your greeting.  Stand out from the crowd.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you called someone and heard, “Good morning!  Thank you for calling the Sales Department.  My name is Linda.  How may I be of service today?” Use an upbeat tone, smile and don’t rush.. I guarantee your caller will be happy to talk to you.  (Make sure you pass on this tip to your front desk as well.  Callers are oftentimes turned off by GSRs who treat the phone caller like an imposition!  Call your own front desk and test their skill!)

Make sure you ask the customer’s name from the outset.  Use the customer’s name!  If the caller identifies themselves as Mary, then call her Mary.  If they say, Mary Smith – call her Ms. Smith until she corrects you and says “please call me Mary”.  This is called respect!

Engage in pleasantries.  Ask about the weather.  Comment on the season.  Don’t spend more than a moment, but set the tone that you want to make sure you are personable before getting down to the nitty-gritty.  Stay away from topics that are controversial, religion or political in nature, and focus on something positive.

Qualifying Needs

Did the sales associate inquire about your type of business? Did they obtain or verify your address, telephone number and email address? Did they inquire about the purpose of the event being planned? Did they inquire about the dates of the function or group as well as any flexibility? Did they inquire about the number of rooms needed for overnight stays? Did they inquire about any food/beverage needs? Did they discuss the availability of rooms for meetings? Did they ascertain budget parameters or resources? Did they inquire about competitors you may be considering? Did they inquire about the decision process for any of the following:  who, how, or when?

Wow – that’s a lot of information to try to get without sounding like the Spanish Inquisition!  As conversation happens, you can probably get all this information from the caller naturally.  If you READ your questions like an oral exam, the caller feels interrogated.  These questions do not need to happen in this order.

Start by inquiring what type of function and what date(s) they are considering?  This is the perfect time to ask about flexibility.  As you are checking dates (yes, you need to be able to talk and check your computer at the same time), ask if this is a function they have held before, and if so where.  Ask about the size of the group.  By this time, you should have been able to find out if you have availability.  If so – great – keep going and get all the information you will need to quote rates.  If there is a problem with the dates requested, and they have said they are flexible – this is a great time to let them know that “your preferred dates are not available, however we do have the following week with the same arrival/departure pattern open”.

Don’t forget to ask about other hotels competing for their business.  “Are you considering other local hotels, or other cities for this group?” Why do you need to know this fact?  For one thing, if it is a local hotel and you know your competition, you will know approximately how much the other hotel is/will offer?  You will know their hotel and be able to sell against it.  “Much like the XYZ hotel, our hotel features a beautiful meeting room capable of handling your group.  One advantage our hotel boasts, is that we provide a complimentary coffee break for every full day booked.  Additionally, our meeting room is equipped with SMART Board technology and this feature is included in the room rental.”  Make sure you FEATURE what you do better than the competition without bad-mouthing the competition.  For example, “Our hotel is much better and the sales person over at the XYZ has a reputation of being hard to work with….”  Be careful!  Ask the customer what they like about the other hotel…. then match or better that fact.  “We love the ABC Hotel because their location is near downtown.”  To sell to their strengths, a sales associate might offer, “I can see why your group would like their location  (empathize).  While we are not as close to downtown, we are just a 10 minute walk and do provide complimentary shuttle transportation to all the downtown merchants and eateries (feature).  We also have a great, new lobby bar right here on property.  Other guests have indicated that they love the flexibility of being able to just pop downstairs for a meal and charge it to their room rather than having to go elsewhere for a meal.  Do you think your guests might find this works for them? (asking for buy in)”

The key to not sounding like you are checking boxes off the list, is to practice asking questions!  Use prospecting forms to take notes on the call. Use your sales programs to keep you on track.

Presentation Skills

Did the sales associate summarize your needs and describe the features to match those needs?  Did they describe features such as service or physical attributes of their facility or meeting rooms?  Did they describe how you would benefit from booking your event at their property or benchmark their rate?  Did they attempt to upsell additional function needs that were not discussed (i.e. audio/visual, food/beverage, activities outside the hotel, etc.)?

So you have listened to the customer, taken notes on their needs and dates, have the space and ability to handle the group/meeting… now is the time to present your hotel.  Previously I have suggested that all hotel sales people come up with a 30 and a 60 “elevator pitch” about themselves, and another one for their hotel.  These elevator pitches should be rehearsed and address what makes your hotel worth their money.  Do you have your features and benefits posted on the wall, inside your portfolio or convenient to your desk?

These features and benefits sheets should consist of two columns:  Pros and Cons.  Under the Pros – list all of your hotel’s features.  Under the Cons – list all of the features your competition has that you do not, AND how you sell them those features.  For example, your hotel doesn’t have a shuttle and the customer really wants airport transportation for their guests.  Your Con sheet would say:  No Shuttle.  We can arrange for complimentary taxi service and/or a van for your group at the airport to bring them to the hotel.  (Include this cost in your room rate.  For example, if you negotiate with a service to do a $5 each way transport to the airport, then add $10 to the group rate and make back-office allocations out of room rate to transportation line items.)

Make sure you summarize your conversation!  “Ms. Smith, as I understand, your group of 15 will need 5 sleeping rooms with 2 double beds, and 5 king bedded rooms for 3 nights, arriving on May 12, 2015 and departing on May 15, 2015.   Additionally your group will need our meeting room set classroom style for 15 people for a full day on May 12th and a half day on May 13th.  Your group is planning a dinner on the evening of May 13th, and lastly, you are looking for transportation to and from the airport.  Is this everything we discussed?”  If so, now you can move on to quoting rate and closing the sale.

Closing the Sale

Did the sales associate ask a question to begin the closing process (i.e. what do you think?  how does that sound?)? Did they attempt to move the sales process forward (i.e. trial close, assumptive close, direct close)? Did they clarify or confirm the next action in the process, explaining what they (or you) will need to do? Did they state a date and time that they would follow up with the caller?

You won’t get the business unless you ask for the business.  All too many times I have seen a GREAT sales call fail because the sales associate neglected to ask for the business or take steps towards closing the sale.  Sales is like a thermometer.  If you are not gauging the temperature of the caller, you will never get hot.  Again, create your sales call checklist sheet in sections and proceed through all the sections! Note down several different closing statements options and/or questions?  Some examples are: What do you think? Would you like me to draft up a contract and move forward? Is there any other information you need from me that would help you make a final decision?

Look in the mirror – smile and ASK FOR THE SALE!

Happy selling with confidence!

Linda

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