Adapting hospitality sales approaches for the new normal

The pandemic brought major changes for hotels, restaurants and seniors living firms – the question is what will, or should, stay.

There have been many new lessons hospitality organizations have learned over the past year. “Pivoting” and “flexibility” have become commonly used words, and their practice has proven key to the survival of many hotels, restaurants, seniors living and other hospitality organizations. As part of that, many have discovered there are common, pre-COVID sales practices that will no longer work.

Over the past decade, while direct sales continued as an important function, it had become secondary to new technology and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs). Now, new sales strategies are being reviewed to see what works, what can be strengthened, and what should be discontinued. As an example, one approach we’ve seen recommended is the re-hiring of the position of Sales Manager to re-establish direct, personal relationships with guests.

What does the future of sales look like?

Travel will return. Restaurants will open. Meetings, conventions and weddings will happen. It’s a matter of how, when, and what protocols will be in place. Safety and health will be the new amenities, reducing the importance of thread count, name brand toiletries, and free Wi-Fi. Dialogues consisting of direct, personalized communication will replace blanket messages through social media and third-party listings.

Building those dialogues will be the role of the direct sales team and everyone else within the organization. Interacting with a live person will help foster engagement between the sales team and client or the maitre d’ and diner.

There’s reason for positivity. There’s pent-up demand on both the guest and business side to create great experiences. Businesses want to re-establish relationships that have been difficult to develop and maintain online. Consumers are anxious to have dinner or a visit with family and friends. However, they need to be reassured that hospitality organizations are looking after their health and safety.

What do some of these new sales practices look like? How do hospitality organizations use them to thrive?

Comments from hospitality sales professionals, including Tammy Gillis of Gillis Sales, have indicated there will be multiple changes to pre-COVID best practices. Examples include:

  • Everyone will have a part to play in sales. The various teams can no longer operate in silos. Sales, operations, and revenue management, all need to come together and have a coordinated strategy. The host/hostess or the front desk personnel as the first person guests see, speak to and interact with, play as critical a role in organizational success as the chef or general manager.
  • Everyone will need to understand their role, and have the ability and knowledge to speak as confidently and clearly about safety protocols as they do other guest services.
  • “Hunting” will receive more emphasis within the sales team than “farming”, requiring a different mindset and possibly training. Skills may need to be updated to successfully find new sources of revenue with previous contacts, or within segments where there are no pre-existing relationships or experience. Specific skill updates may require becoming re-acquainted with the detailed capabilities of your Customer Relationship Management system to reawaken old relationships, or learning online research tools like ZoomInfo, LinkedIn or boolean searches on Google to start new ones.
  • Closing business will require customized and flexible contracts able to accommodate the new normal’s unknowns and changes such as varying travel restrictions, quarantines, and the hospitality organizations’ openings or closings. Training and empowering Sales Managers and their teams to respond to divergent and changing guest needs will foster a sense of comfort and trust.
  • Multiple delivery channels will remain the new norm. Pre-COVID, many restaurants hadn’t offered or even considered online ordering, takeout, delivery (direct or through third parties) or curbside pickup because dining rooms and lounges were already busy. Post-pandemic, there’s an opportunity to learn from and leverage those new delivery channels that offer increased guest convenience and safety.

Through the recovery from COVID-19 and beyond, there’s an opportunity to hit the reset button and recognize that brand loyalty will be more dependent than ever on direct personal relationships and an emphasis on the health and safety of guests.

At JRoss Hospitality Recruiters, we understand the importance of developing relationships in sales, and continuing to adapt by demonstrating flexibility and concern for guest safety and convenience as a core part of those relationships. As Canada’s leading hospitality recruiting specialist, we’re constantly connecting with hotel, restaurant and seniors living leaders who have the skills and qualities required to successfully guide their companies through the new sales landscape.

The sample profiles below represent some of Canada’s top hospitality sales leaders. Their profiles show the kind of skills and experience hospitality organizations will need as they morph to operate successfully in our “new normal”. They may match yours, or you may discover you have transferrable skills. Hospitality professionals will be needed in other areas as well. If you focus on another area within hospitality, these profiles may give you some ideas regarding where you can add value as Canada’s hotel, restaurant and seniors living industries rebuild.

To learn more on this and other hospitality trends and insights you can check out our blog.

Canada’s Top Hospitality Sales Leaders – some examples

Senior Sales Manager - Hotel (Edmonton)

This energetic, motivated Sales Manager is willing to go the extra step to meet and exceed their client’s needs. Their goal is to never "sell" their valued clients anything, but rather to offer the solution of their 4 Star downtown property as a great fit for either overnight group accommodation or catered event needs. They’re a master at new business development and have the strong ability to develop additional business from both existing and new accounts. As a real “hunter,” they enjoy the research and outreach required to find new business, resulting in a proven track record of double digit sales increases year over year. They bring to the table a proven track record of exceeding budgeted room night quotas and Average Daily Rate.

Director of Sales and Operations – Hotel (Toronto - open to relocation)

Developing and implementing profitability enhancement strategies and improving hotel operations are what this driven executive is all about. They’re an expert in brand compliance strategies, facilitating franchisee engagements, and leveraging performance measurement and organizational improvements to grow mixed portfolios and meet ownership targets in both established and emerging markets. In their last role they drove 14% revenue growth YOY and improved asset values by 10%. They’re a proven leader who thrives in environments where skills in collaborative team-building, market analysis, and brand development are valued.

Director of Sales and Marketing – Hotel/Resort (Calgary)

This proven DSM is a strategic seller with an eye for negotiating true win-win contracts for their clients and hotel/resort. There are few respected sales and hospitality meetings industry professionals that know the western mountain region and resort market quite like this candidate does, in both luxury and mid-tier settings. Leading 5 sales and revenue management professionals, they’ve rallied the team to 40% revenue growth over the past 4 years. They achieved this unprecedented growth by implementing rate strategies that maximized revenue, by personally securing new accounts for the hotel, and by insisting on personalized attention for all the hotel’s clients – especially when touring the property for the purpose of making buying decisions or for detailed negotiations. With a focus on digital marketing, they’ve grown engagement on all social media channels and united marketing, sales, public relations, and revenue management strategies to exceed targets. This results focused sales leader can energetically and passionately represent Rocky Mountain destinations and successfully unite competitors and destination marketing organizations to bring tourists to the mountains.

Director of Sales and Franchise Development (Montreal)

This outstanding bilingual senior development professional has a proven track record for success in helping restaurant chain and food service concepts grow their reach by expanding nationally through franchise partners. They have deep expertise in franchising, real estate, construction, operations, finance and strategic market planning in both the hospitality and retail sectors. In their last role with one of the world’s most valuable brands and innovative companies, they were responsible for licensed stores, foodservice and office development. While there, they developed and negotiated 40 new license agreements and developed a national network of lodging clients, resulting in a 100% development increase in the segment. A natural networker and hunter, they have a proven track record for successfully implementing new business development techniques that result in more effective licensed sales processes.

Regardless of your area of hospitality expertise, we’d welcome you joining us as a JRoss candidate. To view our current hospitality opportunities and submit your resume, just click here.

Written by Patricia Viscount and Rob Fisher