Chiara Felly, Creator of the Steps to WIN™ Sales Program

Buyers have changed the way they buy, has your team changed the way they sell? If not, your team’s success in winning the right business for your property, will be weakened. The power to achieve the results you want in terms of fixing seasonality issues, RevPAR, ADR, Occupancy & ultimately Profitability is driven by winning Meetings & Event business – at the right rate.

There are a number of issues that can work against winning this profitable business, let’s take a look at them briefly so you know where you stand.

  • I have seen (as common) up to 80% of sales team time being spent replying to leads that just don’t book. What is your conversion rate? Industry average is 15-20%. Valuable sales time is being spent working on leads that either aren’t the right fit for your property or the competition win the ones that are. According to MPI there is an 87% decrease in the conversion rate of RFPs in the last 5 years. This is costing you as the cost of a sale is unnecessarily high. Conversion rates or the “BIG C” as I’ve heard it termed, must increase.
  • The lead-in time of the business is less and less. You have to pick up too much business in the month to meet and exceed budgets. It is very stressful. You need more business on the books 6 months plus out to ease this stress and give you more certainty.
  • Perhaps your location means you have to compete more on rate to entice the profitable corporate, incentive & conference business in. Yet, you want to win the business at great rates. What are the best ways to get around this? Relationships seriously need to be managed when increasing rates for group & transient business. The Buyer still remembers when rates hit an all time high in 2007 and then crashed.

You might be hearing from the sales team that they are dealing with the problem of trying to sell when they can’t even get to the decision maker. They are forced to sell via email or voicemail. Or they are responding to online RFPs, just posting rates and descriptions on a website and being judged on that. This is just killing the moral of your most valuable sales people who are hungry to deal directly with decision makers. That is their buzz and they are just not getting enough face to face time with your ideal clients.

Laura, a hotel sales pro for 12 years commented that my techniques, in just one hour “shone a big light” for her “on how to sell more effectively and more enjoyably”.

Happy sales people, working in their zone, sell more. Read on to discover more about that technique.

The Vision

Writing a book (Steps to WIN in the Meetings Market) helped me to see I had a system, a system on how to WIN big in the Meetings, Event & Conference Market. It’s a simple system on how the client buys.

I am going to share parts of that system; they are the essential steps to take to ensure you are not left with big holes in your guestroom & meeting room occupancy to fill last minute. If you need help in implementing it, I will tell you towards the end how I can help you do that too. These are the 7 Steps.

Ciara Feely

A big problem I see in the industry is…

Sales teams are selling the same way they were 2-3 years ago, yet the buyers have dramatically changed the way they buy. In fact, I go as far as saying that hotels are selling the wrong thing. Let me explain.

I did a test recently with a few hundred properties, which proves this; I will share those results towards the end. Andy Bounds (voted UK’s No. 1 Sales Trainer) puts this in a very clear way – people do not want what you are selling, they want how better off they are after having done business with you. I teach your team how to figure out what each client wants, after having done business with you & then sell that.

Most hotels are selling the hotel itself or the conference room or great service/location (features & benefits), where as the Planner is buying so much more than that.

What is essential here is to meet the client at their level and have the conversation that they want. This takes stepping back from your view point and seeing and understanding theirs. I have seen my clients make a shift in the way they talk about their venue – this has resulted in €250,000 of business within weeks of working with me – all by making a shift.

They are selling the exact same hotel – just speaking about it from the client’s perspective. That’s key.
I know from my days in hotel sales, it is very hard to take a look at the hotel from the client’s perspective. I just had not developed that “eye”. While I had great sales training and great mentors in the industry, I was always taught to sell from the hotel point of view – when I became the client 10 years ago, I saw immediately how I could have made life a lot easier for myself and sold even more.

It certainly would have helped when I faced the task of opening a new property in downtown San Francisco 3 months after 9/11. The corporate & group market was a key component of the business mix.

What I have learned through being the client is this –

To be really successful in sales you have to be clear on the problems you solve and the results you deliver. Because that is all the client cares about.

Not Rocket Science

None of what I am about to share is rocket science. In fact, my clients tell me it is very practical and most importantly, starts to get results in 2-3 months. It sounds easy and it just makes sense once it is explained and broken down. It is not easy to do on your own though. It takes a little work and “stepping back from your business”. It is looking at your business from the perspective of the Corporate and Association Buyers. And that is a very different view, one I help my clients to develop.

If your aim is to –

  • Grow your share of business against your competitors;
  • Grow profitability, by making an impact on Revenue, Rates & the cost of a sale, then you need to put these steps in place in the next 70 days to ensure this shift.

Then read on…

Here are 3 of the 7 Simple Steps

Stand Out & Sound Different – How to be of Interest to the Client

Craft a compelling, desirable message that makes your target Corporate & Conference client excited to talk to you. Buyers don’t trust traditional sales messages anymore. An effective sales pitch really should be about opening the conversation, not closing the deal. Buyers won’t even entertain a conversation with a sales person until they feel a certain level of trust & confidence. So, this is the first step, building trust and confidence by your team changing how they approach this market.

Heather is a client of mine and a Director of Sales of 6 hotels. She was chasing a corporate client for 3 years, each year filling out the Meetings RFP and winning none of the business. After working together, she changed 2 things:

  • her pitch
  • her proposal

Then BOOM! She won 75% of the client’s business for that year.

It was only when she got feedback from me on what to change in her approach so that it was more interesting to her client; that she started to win the more difficult pieces of business she’d lost out on for years. An effective pitch talks about what the client wants to talk about and that is not your hotel.
I teach 30 “Killer Questions” that help the team to figure out what each client is buying. The part of the brain that makes a decision only understands how you make it feel, it does not understand price or facts. Yet most pitches are filled with facts. I show the sales team how to tap into the emotions of the buyer, so their pitch is filled with what will help the Buyer to buy.

It’s time to stop being seen as a “Supplier”.
Being a “Partner” is a lot more lucrative.

Create your Power Sales Tools to make the Competition Irrelevant

60% of the decision to buy or not can be made before the client even speaks to your sales team. These Power Sales Tools help Decision Makers say YES. They use them every day to “judge” your hotel or venue’s suitability. You would never ask a chef to prepare a banquet without having the right equipment? The same applies to the sales team. Planners tell me that most marketing messages, websites & proposals do not make them want to respond to the sales effort because they all sound the same.
How to know if you sound like every other hotel – do any of these typical “marketing phrases” sound familiar
⦁ Ideal venue • Successful Event or Meeting
⦁ Memorable Experience • Convenient or Great Location
⦁ Exceed Your Expectations • Where business meets pleasure

Everyone is using these marketing phrases so how can your venue stand out? Your team has to sound “different” to everyone else. I help the team to build those Power Sales Tools and stand out and establish trust quicker with the prospective client. These tools have to be built from the point of view of the client to work and impact your profitability.

Write Proposals that WIN!

The quickest way to impact sales is to create an effective proposal, one that will WIN.
It can take 45 minutes to respond to an RFP or “send out” a proposal. According to MPI data, there is an 87% decrease in the RFP closing ratio from just five years ago, due to RFP Technology and attracting the wrong clients. What that means for you is that the team can spend 50 hours before booking their first meeting.
There are 3 big mistakes out there in the industry right now when it comes to Proposals.

1. They are all about the hotel when they should be all about the client and their issues.
2. The information is not presented in the right order so the client’s attention moves to the rate.
3. They are not personalised & do not demonstrate flexibility for the client.

A lot of Directors of Sales will say to me they are happy with their proposal. When I read it, I see that 90% of it is all about the hotel or venue. Again, I read it from the client’s perspective and once you write proposals from the client’s perspective, everything changes.

The Test Results: I mentioned these earlier and promised to share the results. I asked 500 hotel sales professionals across Europe & the US, if a client was sitting beside them when they are filling out an RFP for a meeting – what questions would they ask? 95% of the questions they would ask were about the meeting brief – Wi-Fi strength needed, times of set up and tear down etc. These are not questions that will help to open up the conversation with the prospective client because everyone is asking them. Those questions are for later on in the sales process. There are bigger questions to ask first that will bring you closer to conversion. That is what I teach.

The better-quality questions you ask; the better-quality answers you get.

So, at this stage, after reading this far, I’m assuming you want the kind of results my system can deliver. Most people have 2 thoughts at this stage –
After years of teaching teams how to use this system, I can see that results happen quicker & new ideas get implemented quicker with a little help. It is hard to be objective about your own sales approach.

Let us talk: The quickest way to shortcut your growth and learning process is to find good models. That’s what I have developed. If you are serious about winning more business from your competitors & filling your venue with more profitable business – call or email me to set up a gap analysis call.

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