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Since it didn’t happen in 2019, when will the next major global financial crisis hit the hotel industry? Tareq Bagaeen, Founder of aQedina.com, shares his main tips and insights.
As it stands, we’ve had a great 10-year growth run; so why is it that so many of you have struggled with your overall revenues for 2019 in comparison to 2018 or even 2017? Well, this is all due to unregulated supply and in many cases, massive inventory flooding the market. Just look at Dubai market overview; the numbers are staggering. Doesn’t mean there isn’t enough business; there is, but with supply outstripping demand there will always be one eventuality; rate gets hurt and with the ever-rising costs of doing business; profit margins are dwindling.
With what is going on today and will happen in the future, this is the time when great leaders to show their value with the right mindset and strategy to capture more than their fair share and rise against the tide of the cut-throat business environment in which they operate.
The below listed 10 tips should set you on the right path to attain success but will by no means be everything you need to do!
1. Information equals power
You would wish that every member in your team is sufficiently seasoned to have the confidence to run accounts, segments and their business effectively; but that is almost never the case because of the great youth numbers entering the hospitality industry to keep up with talent demands.
As such you need a strategy to furnish your teams with as much useable information as possible to give them power over their clients. This seems easy and natural, but it is much more complicated than it seems and is easy to drown your teams with data that they do not know how and when to use. As such, the information must be broken up into 4 sections:
- Make sure your team know their property inside out: As we mystery shop countless hotels annually; it is perplexing how many salespeople do not know the simplest details or USPs of their own product. You need to assign a champion for this project per month and have this person compile and constantly update a concise and sales driven fact sheet on the product the team is selling. Go back to basics.
- Knowledge of your competition is essential: your teams must know what sets them apart against their immediate comp set and be allowed to visit and experience these hotels regularly. Go now to your commercial team and quiz them against this; the results will surprise you.
- Market and commercial environment understanding: this aids in leads generation and overall elevated sharpness for your teams when it comes to strategy. Here I am an advocate of assigning responsibilities based on industry rather than city neighbourhoods. This will create leisure source market specific champions. Specially, corporate champions (Pharma, Banking, Oil & Gas, FMCGs and similar). This will allow your teams to become more than just salespeople; rather industry specialists who understand their clients which will eventually allow them to become specialty consultants to their clients.
- Managed and new accounts information: Being prepared for every client interaction is key to give meetings a purpose, showcase a high level of preparedness to your clients, save time within meetings which normally gets wasted on data we could have uncovered independently. This also helps your team’s guide the sales call to their advantage for maximum impact. Basic account data preparation sheets and key account management documents are worth their weight in gold.
2. Prospect every single day
Each year, the global traveller pool is flooded with millions of new consumers from both emerging and developed markets, many with rising disposable incomes and a newfound ability to experience the world. So; what does this mean exactly? Simply put, no matter where you operate, there is pretty much always an opportunity to seek out new segments / source markets and to grow them gradually.
Think about this for a minute: If I have you a million dollars, how would you invest it? Put it all in Apple stock? Lock it in the bank? Well, yes and yes, but if you are a smart operator you would hedge your bets and diversify your investments to maximize potential profit while keeping risk low. This is exactly how you should look at your business mix; as a risk.
Go back and look at Russian dependant destinations or properties, what happened there when the Ruble lost 50% of its value almost overnight? How about when the oil price tanked? Or when you operated a resort in Phuket 6 months back and relied heavily on Chinese travellers? Or even more recent, if you were a Tenerife resort that had a huge deal with Thomas Cook, I’m sure you are not happy today.
This doesn’t only matter in the macro; your accounts will continue to decline if not grown? Your competitors are attacking them, you mess up and they leave, projects end, companies move offices, etc. Reasons to prospect are way too many to mention and they all keep taking you to one direction. Go out and prospect.
Hunting for leads however is an art; requires planning, resource allocation, dedication and a full-on strategy. This isn’t as simple as a sales blitz or a telemarketing campaign.
3. Move the goal post constantly
My biggest issue with setting sales, e-commerce or M&E team member targets in September or October during the budget season is that these targets never seem to be adjusted as the hotel’s forecast gets adjusted every quarter, month or week even.
Business environments can and do change, so how come your team’s targets don’t. This is mainly due to owners not wanting to pay bonuses to a hotel that is achieving below budget. However, if you do not give your team a realistic target to reach for a financial reward, and they know from February for example that their numbers are impossible, then they will lose a big portion of their motivation and may even leave. This is a bad business practice that you are operators may not be able to impact with ease but if you do not attempt, then eliminating this issue will never actually happen.
4. Know you exact cost-per-booking (CPB)
We all know that direct bookings are the most profitable, but are they? Bookings coming through your brand.com: GDS, CRS, affiliate network and similar are still subject to quite hefty fees. So, which is more profitable, a 100$ room rate sold to an FIT wholesaler or corporate? How about groups? What if the wholesaler is using a channel manager to book dynamic rates? Is that a fixed fee or per transaction through the channel manager per booking or a monthly standard fee? A successful DOSM should be able to know the exact clean rate that is coming in from each and every one of his or her managed segments, then redirect the strategy, manning and financial resources to get more of the most profitable ones as the business environment and needs change.
5. S&M budget constant review and allocation
A budget set in September may be null and void come February, but if you retain those barriers around you as you spend your way through the year; then you are not being effective. Within this S&M budget we all do many forms of activities, whether that is a social media campaign, SEO, SEM, PPC, wholesaler brochure contribution, Fam Trips, influencer invites, entertainments, sales trips, road shows, exhibitions and more. It is imperative for a sales leader to study the income coming from each of their segments and the cost of getting that business as the year progresses; cost includes the above activities as well as the manning and payroll costs involved. Are you putting in way too much in leisure but not enough in MICE? When and how do you invest in corporate and to know and constantly review the ROI after all your investments per segment. A neat trick here is to plan but keep some flexibility in commitment timeframes to allow changes to be possible. Quarterly reviews on funds allocation with your commercial and segment department heads builds ownership by everyone involved, that is invaluable.
6. Know by heart the metrics your superiors care about
Every single business day, you should be checking your KPIs that your owners, management, corporate office (When applicable) consider as a high priority, such as your STR RevPAR, MPI, RGI, ADR indexes against your comp set, OTB against forecast & budget and Vs. last year, direct revenue ratio (DRR), OTAs ranking and your customer review rankings on TripAdvisor and others. Monitoring these KPIs will help you understand how your sales and marketing team is actually contributing to the hotel’s revenue targets and overall market rankings. It will also allow you a leg to stand on if you ever need to defend any course of action or receive support to a strategy that you feel needs to be implemented. Don’t allow yourself to be quizzed on some of the above points and not know the answer. This showcases a lack of involvement on your side. Stay sharp.
7. Make difficult HR decisions
A team at the end of the day is just like a well-oiled machine, and one bad cog in the mechanism will cause major problems for performance. This is true when you have a team member who is simply unable to carry his / her own weight for whatever reason. Also, you may encounter an even worse situation when you have a toxic person within the team who is actively disengaged, nags, is negative, pessimistic and gossipy.
These people can destroy moral and cause factions to build up within the department as well as with clients and have extremely bad repercussions. Only after making sure you give your team all the chances to succeed and tried to coach them away from bad behaviour that they still persist; let them go! And don’t let it take too much time as well. Every day is a lost opportunity.
8. Many people don’t trust OTAs
Expedia, Booking, Agoda and others in this domain have actually built a lousy reputation for poor customer service, and many travellers worry about reservations, cancellations, changes, room selection and refunds when booking through them. In response, you should adjust your primary online & marketing message to remind prospective guests at every opportunity that booking direct is the safer play, and you have a 100% commitment to customer service in the event something does go wrong. To be clear, I am not asking you to pick a fight with your OTAs, not at all, that would not be smart. Simply adjust your verbiage and messaging across your own channels to highlight the benefits of booking direct and if you are lucky to have a loyalty program of some kind, then you must always leverage it by launching fenced promotions to undercut OTAs and building direct client loyalty. Key messaging works! Go book a room on an OTA now and you will see ‘The best rate’ ‘Booked 5 times in the last day’ ‘last room available’ and similar. Why can’t you then re-word your messaging to make it more fenced and create that sense of urgency and value. It is doable and really doesn’t cost that much if anything at all!
9. Go out, do sales calls and meet people
Speak to actual guests! Resist the urge to stay glued to your computer or attend your own meetings all day. Get out and talk to guests in the lobby or walk the meeting space and chat with attendees during their downtime. Start a conversation and see how things are going. Ask what could make their stay or meeting experience even better. Discover what really matters to them. See who is checking in when booked by 3rd parties; why are they there?
How can you get them back? You must also do sales calls with your team, but don’t let them know that you are planning to do this, surprize one team member a week and jump in their car! Because if you let them know in advance, they will always take you to their best clients and closest contacts so they can look good! This may frighten some people, granted, but it will keep your team on their toes like never before.
10. Invest in your team
In today’s world, you must understand that your clients are getting smarter, sharper and better negotiators, as such, it is imperative that you invest in your ladies & gentlemen to ensure they are up to the task at hand and that they can professionally and where needed, aggressively represent themselves, their property and brand to prospective clients and that they can negotiate positively to maximize the return on their efforts.
Our sales training journeys can assist you to do just that and help with tools, strategies and ability to organize much of what is listed above. With a tailor-made approach to each team, property, region and property type; we ensure that every engagement will add value in a way that is not available elsewhere. I am proud that we are coming to the 4-year marker in this domain and since the past 2 years 100% of our business is pure repeat or referral; that humbles me. Also, many of our clients always tell me that what they love about our work is that it is from the field to the field; rather than theory from a book.
Founder of aQedina.com
With almost 20 years of experience on the extensive international sales, marketing and revenue experience, Tareq is the founder of aQedina.com a media platform with commercial resource to hoteliers with assessment and learning programs.
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