February 1, 2018
By Brian Burton, CHSE, CRME, Vice President, Sales & Events, White Lodging, and Katie Davin, CHSE, Associate Professor, Johnson & Wales University-Providence, members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board
If you’re like many sales leaders in North America, you’ve likely already been faced with something – an internal opportunity and/or an external threat – that has compelled you to update your 2018 business plan. And it’s only the first of February!
The fact is that change is constant and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Faced with that reality, consider the following ways that members of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board are dealing with it and updating their own sales strategies.
- Make your business plan a useful tool rather than a static document you put on the shelf.
New builds will come online, international tensions will rise and fall, renovations will get off schedule, staff will resign or retire unexpectedly, and the economy will eventually slow down. You may think you know how your hotel will be affected, but it is really a moving target. In response, work toward a fluid plan that allows you to adapt more quickly and easily, and keep your key stakeholders (including owners) satisfied.
For example, you could create your business plan as a big-picture roadmap that addresses the static, unchanging elements of your business (e.g., segment strategies), while incorporating your tactical goals and activities into your month-end reporting.
Because owner involvement in tactical activities is growing, when asked for the business plan you can share both the business plan and month-end report. Owners ask a billion questions and analysts ask a billion more. Try to find ways to generate the answers as seamlessly as possible so as not to distract property-level salespeople with the job of answering them. Keep them focused on selling.
At the same time, don’t let this greater degree of engagement from owners weigh on you. Today they are focusing greater concentration on their assets and bringing more to the table. Their involvement and insight can make you a better manager, because you’re able to see things from a different perspective and are challenged to question your assumptions. If you owned the building, wouldn’t you be asking the same things?
- Get a handle on anomalies.
Certainly 2017 was challenging on the natural-disaster front for many regions in North America – we saw snow and ice in the Northeast U.S. in January; the hurricane season in Houston, South Florida, and the Caribbean; the fire season in the Pacific Northwest; and the fires in Northern California in the closing months of the year. The hotels in those areas, and those in areas that benefited from displacement, need to understand the YOY impacts so they can manage expectations and design the best possible sales strategies for the year.
How are these anomalies affecting your stakeholders’ expectations for ’18? Do you need to adjust? How much do you need to take out of your forecasts for these non-repeating events?
- Pay close attention to your competitors.
Shifts from our competitors – big changes and little changes alike – can open doors as well as close them. Be watchful and prepared to leverage openings created by the competition.
For instance, many hotel companies have recently enacted stricter cancellation policies. What does this mean for everyone else? Does this open the door for others to follow, potentially allowing for better management of hotel inventory?
At the same time, Airbnb recently expanded its “Experiences” product into more markets, and they are now charging for it. There has been significant negative feedback on this move even from their hardcore guests. Does that galvanize your commitment to offer your own authentic curated experiences and not charge for them?
- Shift share.
Simply put, you can’t rely on external forces (like a booming economy) to raise the tide for every property in every market. But you can still grow (even if it is ho-hum growth) by shifting business from your competitors’ hotels to your own.
Resources & Recommended Reading
- Group bookings pace for 2018: Up, but different
- Disasters, cycle worries dominate 2017's top stories
- Joint-employer reversal: What hoteliers should know
- The global economy looks good for 2018 (unless somebody does something dumb)
About HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board
HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board leverages insights, emerging trends, and industry innovations to fuel sales for hotels. Members include:
- CHAIR: Ed Skapinok, Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing, Revenue, and Reservations, Aqua-Aston Hospitality
- Jamieson Asselta, Director of Sales, Northeast, IDeaS - A SAS COMPANY
- C. Becker, Principal, Titan Group of New York LLC
- Bart Berkey, Director of Global Luxury Sales, Marriott International Luxury Brands
- Brian Burton, CHSE, CRME, Vice President of Revenue Strategy & Optimization, White Lodging
- Michelle Crosby, CMP, Director of Global Sales, Hosts Global
- Katie Davin, CHSE, Associate Professor, Johnson & Wales University-Providence
- Amber Fox, System Consultant, NAVIS
- LaDonna Gerhart, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Remington Hotels
- Lisa Giaimo, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, OTO Development LLC
- Cory Hagopian, Executive Director, Sales Effectiveness, AccorHotels
- Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, CMM, Vice President of Global Sales, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group
- SiuYin Ko, Corporate Director of Global Sales, Rosewood Hotel Group
- Melissa Kouvelas, Director of Worldwide Sales, Best Western Hotels & Resorts
- Ginny Morrison, CHA, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Spire Hospitality
- Ronald Taylor, Vice President of Sales and Development, WCG Hotels
- Jim Vandevender, Chief Marketing Officer, Knowland
- Christine Wight, Executive Director of Hospitality
- Tony Yeung, Principal, ZS Associates