June 27, 2019
In addition to sourcing and researching potential new business, data intelligence can help hotels overcome some of the biggest challenges they face in managing group business.
Establishing customer centricity is a good example. A reliance on inbound RFPs and automation has made it more difficult for sales teams to facilitate a connection and build a direct relationship with meeting planners. It’s different from the transient market, said Christi Davis, vice president of the Loews Sales Organization, where “you have a lot of information at your fingertips [with leisure guests] that you don’t yet have with groups.”
Data intelligence arms sales teams with historical insight on their prospects, so making contact feels less like a wobbly cold call. Having what Davis calls a “very pointed, strong foundation” allows her to make a stronger case and be more confident and strategic in her approach. “I now know, going into the conversation, I’m educated,” Davis said. “And when you have an educational foundation when you’re going into these conversations with these very savvy meeting planners, it’s very much welcomed.”
Going beyond the RFP and prospecting planners in order to drive a more personalized book of business can also help sales teams stay one step ahead. “Having more information about that person is what’s really driving us to anticipate their needs to an even better degree,” said Jonathan Kaplan, vice president of global sales strategy for InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). “At the end of the day, it’s the person that we want to focus on. Because that same individual could be your groups and meetings attendee, could be a planner, could be a leisure guest. They wear many hats in the different relationships that we have with them.”
This shift from reactive (answering only inbound RFPs) to proactive (actively prospecting on strategic accounts based on historical data) works not just to win a piece of business in that moment, but also to establish a long-term relationship that results in new business, whether the planner books it then or later. “The current economy, as it stands now, has really pushed us into a very transactional-sale type of a concept,” Davis said.
“So we can get really caught up in this incoming demand. It’s kind of like that saying ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,’ right? But that’s not what a true seller is really challenged to do. A true seller is challenged to go out there and find business.”
Excerpted from Getting to Know Your Customers, a new white paper from HSMAI and Knowland, available for free download here.