Capturing More Catering Sales Revenue – Circa 2017
September 12, 2016 9:23am
By Doug Kennedy
As we turn another page on our calendars and head into the fourth quarter, most hotel catering sales associates have booked up all of their event space for fall conference season and the busy holiday party month of December. It’s time to look ahead to yet another year that is certain to bring about more unanticipated changes and disruptions. Yet one fact that will remain the same is that catering will be still be one of the most profitable departments of the hotel.
Before diving into budgets for next year, it’s a good idea to pause to reflect a bit. When you do it’s easy to see that the sales process for the catering inquiries has changed significantly, as it has for hotel sales in general. Perhaps the most impactful changes are that those planning the events are faced with an overwhelming number of choices, while at the same time their ability to inquire electronically has resulted in catering sales managers being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of inquiries.
In the not so distance past, those planning social or corporate events would identify three or four hotels and/or other venues that could potentially meet their needs and then reach out by phone to each location. Today, an event planner typically starts out by searching a seemingly infinite number of choices online and then sending inquiries at each hotel’s website. Many use third party event planning websites such as Cvent, Starcite, CVB websites, wedding planning websites and many others.
From the planner’s side of the equation, this creates what some call “The Choice Overload Problem,” a phrase coined by Sheena Lyengar, who holds a Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Stanford University. (Do a Google search for her Ted Talk on this subject if you want more insights.) In other words, the more choices we as consumers have, the less satisfied we are with the selections we make.
Today’s catering event planners face an overwhelming number of choices and often have a hard time making a selection. Their decisions are made that much harder when most of the hotel catering proposals are roughly within the same price ranges, thanks to the competitive rate shopping that most hotels do. It becomes that much harder for planners to make a decision when the proposal collateral returned by salespersons is very similar in content and presentation.
From the supplier’s side of the equation, most catering sales managers these days are dealing with an overwhelming volume of inquiries. Because it is so easy for planners to inquire electronically to multiple venues, instead of calling three or four locations, the planner can inquire at a dozen or more with a few simple key strokes. As a result, most catering sales managers are struggling to keep up with what some have called “lead spam” and they often develop what I refer to as “lead fatigue.”
As a result, many catering sales managers are slow to respond or sometimes do not respond at all, especially if there is no space available for the requested dates. Also, the responses they send tend to be generic, using cookie cutter templates that are not personalized. As I have addressed in previous columns, this is also a challenge for hotel sales in general.
Unlike sales though, hotel catering sales managers are more often than not dealing with someone who has an emotional interest in the event, and less often having to work through a third party meeting planner. Instead, it is the bride-to-be inquiring; the adult child who is planning their parent’s 40th wedding anniversary; or the parent planning the Bar Mitzvah or Quinceanera. Even if it is an institution or company planning the catering event, chances are it is a high profile occurrence that has a heavy emotional value and that is being planned by an in-house contact. As a result, it is even more important for hotel catering sales managers to provide personalized, customized sales experiences that present a positive first impression of how the rest of the hotel team is going to handle the event.
If you are looking for maximum results from your catering sales efforts in 2016 here are some training tips to consider:
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Doug Kennedy is President of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. a leading provider of customized training programs and telephone mystery shopping services for the lodging and hospitality industry. Doug continues to be a fixture on the industry's conference circuit for hotel companies, brands and associations, as he been for over two decades. Since 1996, Doug's monthly hotel industry training articles have been published worldwide, making him one of the most widely read hotel industry training authors in the world. He is the author of Still On The Road to Sales and Guest Service Excellence. Visit KTN at: www.kennedytrainingnetwork.com or email him directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact: Doug Kennedy
Office: 954.716.7980; Mobile: 954.558.4777
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