Street Corner Sales Tactics
Here are some strategies to sell rooms in your neighborhood.

Glenn Haussman

If you want to be serious about getting heads in beds, then you have to look in your own backyard for business. Sure, industry-wide profits and RevPAR are down, but quite frankly that has nothing to do with you. Your hotel is a street corner business and it’s critical to look around your neighborhood to sell more room nights.

At this year’s Vantage Hospitality conference, held last week at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, an educational seminar armed attendees with myriad ideas for America’s Best Value Inn branded hotels and Lexington Collection properties. The idea was to pick the best ideas in the room to provide workable strategies that could be immediately implemented back at home.

As many of you have learned this year, it is no longer a world to build a hotel and they come. You need a unique approach to build business,” said Christine Ronning, Sales Management Professional with My Hospitality Sales Pro and the session’s facilitator. “It is very important to make sure you have a good presence in your market and in your backyard. That is critical this coming year.”

According to Ronning, backyard selling steps can be broken down into four easy steps, called FEAR: Find the Opportunity; Evaluate Client Needs; Accommodate & Ask; and Resolve Objections.

She said it’s all about finding places to generate new opportunities. “Ask your guests why they are there. It’s the number one way to find new business. Talk to them and find out why they are there. If there is one there may be more,” Ronning explained, adding that asking them how and why they made the reservation will prove to be an insightful exercise.

Suggestions that came from the audience included getting the names and phone numbers of trucking companies in your parking lot and those in your competitive set, then calling them. Also, work on getting promoted by your local convention and visitors bureau; do a sales blitz in your local region to the major companies in the area to see if they utilize hotels; and also visit the city and county building department to find construction jobs about to happen in the area, then call on those companies. One hotelier in attendance has had construction crews occupying 12 rooms for several months, a huge piece of business.

Other places to scope out include car rental counters, towing and limo companies, funeral homes, hospitals (for families coming to town to visit or the facility’s vendors), getting a handle on special events coming to town; visit employment and real estate agencies, as well as churches and bridal shops. Also, keep an eye out for motor coach companies and persuade them to send business for your area.

Another unique idea from Judy Di Pietro, Vantage’s VP Travel Industry Sales, was to auction off travel packages. “I used to be a GM for a Las Vegas property for many years and we put packages on eBay and Craig’s List. Put whatever rate you want on it and sell it,” she said.

“You have to be creative and unique. Partner with a local restaurant to put it in their lobby and offer a free night’s stay. Then find the cards from out of town and you can see who is staying in local hotels. I work with a hotel near a new power plant and once you get one vendor, the rest may come,” said Ronning.

It’s also important to ask the right questions such as where they are staying and why, uncover concerns potential guests may have and combat them with the answers that accurately reflect your hotel, and what price-point do you need in order to make this happen?

Elements of your hotel that will further drive business are to make sure your hotel has good curb appeal and nice signage, welcome the customer and greet them properly, list all your amenities on your website, give them coupons for future visits, and communicate to guests through social media such as Twitter.

“You have to show the client you appreciate them and are willing to help them out,” said Ronning. “You have to know your guests. If you have guys staying with you that are working out in the field every day, perhaps make them chili every night or some hot dogs – instead of dropping rate – to make it a better stay for them.”

But heed this warning from Vicki Schell, VP Distribution with Vantage Hospitality. “You should never drop rate or you’ll never get it back. Instead, ask them what you can do for them and do other things- like giving them in-room amenities or a personalized welcome letter and coffee in their room – so the customer feels they are being paid attention to,” said Schell.