The sales imperative: What hotels need to do to survive after COVID-19



When the economy is good and hotels are making money, sales is something that flies under the radar and is not closely inspected or even fully understood by people in operations who oversee this function.

To successfully recover post-COVID-19, hotels, brands, and management companies will need to look at how the sales function is structured in their organization. They will need to determine if they have the right people with the right skills, and the right tools and training to compete in an environment that will be scarce with new opportunities and largely dependent on stealing business from the competition.

Hospitality organizations will need to consider three fundamental shifts if they are going to survive:

1. Everybody is in sales (or at least they should be).

  •    Hotel teams can no longer operate in a silo. Sales, revenue management, and operations all need to come together, develop a strategy, and communicate vs. having competing priorities.
  • The front desk plays a critical role in the success of a hotel’s sales strategy. Too many front desk associates see their role as “checking people in and checking people out.” They can be great lead catchers for the sales department to further qualify and close.
  • The battleground for converting incoming inquiries into reservations will be the dialogue front desk agents have with the potential customers. Could they communicate, with confidence and clarity, the cleaning and social distancing protocols of the hotel and what is being done to keep guests safe? Train your front desk teams and do not leave these important policies open for interpretation.

2. What worked before will not work in the future.

  • Pre-COVID, many sales departments kept busy managing existing accounts and incoming inquires (aka “Farming”) as our industry enjoyed 10 straight years of REVPAR growth. With many demand generators – such as large conventions, sports tournaments, and corporate trips – not travelling until 2021 and beyond, the pie has shrunk and there are not enough incoming inquiries to provide hotels with base business.
  • Sales people who only know how to farm need to learn how to hunt. This requires a different mindset and a different skillset.
  • Prospects are not waiting for sales people to call and these modern buyers will not have the time or patience to engage with sales people who have not done their homework and are simply “smiling and dialing.”
  • Hotels will need to consider business from market segments they have not considered in the past to replace business from segments not travelling right now.

3. Sales is not a tactic deployed when the chips are down.

  • It is an imperative business strategy that requires a seat at the same table as operations and everyone in the organization needs to own a piece of it.
  • Sales is proactive and consistent, not reactive and only thought about when there is an economic downturn, an increase in competition, or a pandemic.
  • Sales is a marathon, not a race. There is no instant gratification in this sport.

Now is the time to recalibrate and ensure that sales has a seat at the executive table to drive the desired results hotels will need to recover from this pandemic. Organizations have an incredible opportunity to hit the reset button and build a high performing sales team with the right strategy, the most qualified people, and effective processes and tools in place to support the execution.

Tammy Gillis is the CEO and Founder of Gillis Sales, who has more than 25 years in hospitality sales. Tammy’s entrepreneurial drive led her to develop a Sales For Hire program for hotels operating without a sales team. She has trained thousands of sales professionals, hotel owners, General Managers, and front-line associates. Believing that sales is the life blood for all organizations, her mission is to make sales accessible and achievable for all hotel owners.


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