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Leadership - General Managers
Managing the Sales Process


Carol Verret / October 2003
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October 2003 - General Managers are being asked more and more often to assume responsibility for management of the sales staff.  It is a job for which they have received little training and for which they have a number of challenges.

Five years ago, when demand was high and the sales function was relegated to answering the phone and taking the order, it was relatively easy for General Managers to keep an eye on things in the sales department.  Unemployment was at historic lows and in order to keep positions filled, we were reluctant to expect too much or discipline an under performing employee.  There was a tendency to keep the chair warm rather than let a position go unfilled.

Times have changed both in terms of demand of demand and the employment pool but often the attitudes of management have not.   Sales people represent a distinct management challenge.  The good ones are bright, aggressive, able to sell their managers as well as their clients but they are also very human.

They like most other employees will take the path of least resistance, need to have expectations made clear and have objective standards of performance by which they are evaluated.  The fact of the matter is that no one does what no one checks! 

Sales people (like everyone else) do not perceive the importance of job duties that are not monitored by their supervisors.  In addition, there has to be the WIIFM factor, ‘what’s in it for me’.  If an employee, sales or not, is going to take home the same paycheck whether or not they achieve their goals, why would they do more that the minimum requirements? 

GMs have a particular challenge in that they work long hours and very closely with their sales staffs, especially the DOS.  It is difficult to maintain an objective and professional distance that allows for the kind of management that gets results.  We all have a human need to be liked -- leadership is about respect. 

There are a few simple steps you can take to make your monitoring of the sales effort more effective.  They may also make the sales effort more effective.
 

Refrain from Cronyism – Simply put, this means do not get too close to your DOS or any member of the sales department.  (You wouldn’t compromise your ability to lead the other department heads by too much socializing – or would you?)  It is difficult with a DOS who has worked for you for a long time.  It is also difficult with the long hours required working in close quarters in this industry.  There has to be a line of familiarity that you don’t cross.  It negates your ability to lead and manage effectively.  You know when you have crossed the line.  Weekly golf games are probably too much as is frequent social sharing of coffee or drinks.  I know a GM whose VP of Sales, the VP of Ops and TWO consultants indicated that the problem with the turnover and lack of effectiveness of the sales department was the DOS.  He still didn’t listen.  When this particular DOS took another DOS position with another hotel within the company, he lasted less than two months.  The GM had worked with this DOS for several years, they played golf once a week and he frequently had the DOS and spouse for dinner at his house.  It totally blinded him to the persons deficiencies in job performance and the DOS took complete advantage of the situation. 
Have regular sales meetings with a fixed agenda.    It should occur at least once a month, preferably once a week at a time when it does not interfere with Prime Selling Hours.  (You do know what those are, don’t you?)  This provides a structured environment in which you can ask the ‘tough’ questions without sounding picky and irrational.  I have had GMs say to me “but we talk to each other several times a day – I know what’s going on.”   To a sales person, if you just casually ask a question about an account or ask for numbers, they are likely to feel that you are just in a bad mood and it will pass.   In a more structured environment, you can ask specific questions about accounts mentioned on reports, question the content of numbers on the PACE report, etc..  There is an old story, perhaps apocryphal, that Kurt Carlson, the founder of Carlson Companies, used to ask his Division Heads to bring their financials on overheads.  He would project pages on a screen and point tone specific number line item on the page.  He would then ask what was in this cumulative number.  He figured if a Division Head could specifically outline what this represented, they knew and could do the same on any line item in the reports.
Take a course in sales.  If you come from another discipline in the industry, learn about basic sales.  Read a book, take a course – take a course in sales not related to the industry.  Many of the best hotel sales people I know come from outside the industry where they were on a commission basis at one time or another.  Remember when I said if a sales person (or any other member of the staff for that matter) draws the same paycheck whether or not achieve call and or revenue goals – why would they do ore than necessary to achieve their goals.  (A great argument for incentives for all departments but that is another newsletter.)  There are many fine resources for hotel sales available especially now when that function has become so challenging.  We hope this newsletter is one of those.  Sales people who have worked on commission ‘get it’.
Set realistic goals and involve them in the process.  Goal setting should be an objective process.  When you let them know what they need to produce and why, then involve them in figuring out how they are going to get there, they understand and ideally buy into the plan.  If they don’t buy in they will begin to flat their resume.  I have had sales people whine to me about unrealistic goals.  I have been in that position myself.  We all have choices – if they feel it is unattainable, they can exercise their choice to walk.  If they are really good sales people who feel that unrealistic goals have been foisted upon them, they will do exactly that.  You need to let them know that if you feel the goals set by the corporate office are unattainable, you will go to bat for realistic goals given the market circumstance.  You have been around the block enough times to know the difference between a challenge and the unattainable. 
Be supportive but expect results!  Your head is on the line here too!.  If your sales staff is making a ton of calls but producing few results, it could be a skills problem.  Offer them some training.  When a reasonable amount of time and training effort has passed, don’t be afraid to make the tough decision.  The fact of the matter is they are uncomfortable at their non-performance and may be happier and more satisfied in another position.   As a relatively new DOS, I had a GM who I admired and respected indicate to me that I had to deal with a non-performing sales manager.  I argued, I whined until he said, “Carol, one of you is going – it’s your choice.”  Message received. 

I could continue but that is a whole seminar.  The message is don’t expect to be loved by every member of your staff every day – settle for respect on good days! 


Carol Verret, Owner of Carol Verret Consulting & Training, is a twenty-year veteran of the hotel industry. She arrived in Denver in 1984 in the midst of an economic downturn and quickly established herself as an expert in sales and marketing in hotel turn-around situations, applying her formula for REVPAR improvement. To learn more about Carol Verret, Consulting and Training, visit her web site at http://www.carolverret.com  Comments and feedback are appreciated and can be communicated via phone at (303) 618-4065 or email at carol@carolverret.biz. Be sure to subscribe to Carol's free monthly newsletter: ResultsWoW Customer Service by sending an email to:Subscribe-on@carolverret.biz. Put Subscribe in the subject line. 

copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003


 
Contact:
Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.biz
Email: carol@carolverret.biz
Also See: When the Crystal Ball is Cloudy; Marketing Plans for 2004 / Carol Verret / July 2003
Partnership of Sales and Technology; Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels / Carol Verret  / July 2003
Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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