Hotel Sales And Marketing
A Comprehesive Guide
At Event Temple, it’s our goal to help you increase your Hotel Sales And Marketing. To help you succeed, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or brand new to working in the hospitality industry, you’ll find a lot of actionable resources you can use to grow RevPAR, your sales career and more, right here!Want More Sales And Marketing Tips? - Click Here!
Table Of Contents
Whether you’re a seasoned pro, or you're just starting out in the industry, we hope you'll discover some new tips, tools and strategies in the following guide.
To help make finding what you need easier, we've split the guide into six main sections.
A quick overview of what hospitality sales is and why it needs to be an important part of your revenue generation strategy.
Hotel Sales Tools
Learn about the different online hotel sales tools available today and how they can help to maximize your efficiency.
Understand the different types of leads and how to generate demand for your hotel using a variety of sales and marketing techniques.
Glossary Of Terms
There are a lot of acronyms used in the hotel industry. This section is designed to give beginners a better understanding of what they mean.
To help you develop your hotel sales and marketing strategy, we share some of our best strategies and tips for groups, events, upselling and more.
This guide is just one resource we have created to aid you in your journey. We provide links to additional education here.
Chapter 1An Overview Of Hospitality Sales
What is Hotel Sales and why does it matter?
In this chapter, we'll answer this question and make a case as to why every hotel should have a sales strategy in place.
What Is Hospitality Sales Anyways?
In the age of OTAs (online travel agencies) like Booking.com and Expedia, and mega brands like Marriott and Hilton, it’s easy to think that all you need to do is build the hotel and the marketing is done for you. Your Booking and Expedia listings will generate leads and the rest of your available rooms will be filled in with business sent to you from your hotel brand’s corporate team. But of course, like anything in life, what was once a wide open opportunity quickly becomes saturated with competition and suddenly you aren’t doing as well as you’d like to. Whether you work at a hotel, manage one, work in hospitality sales or are a hotel owner or investor, it’s important to know that your success is in your hands. That’s what this guide is all about.
It’s hard to succeed in life by passively waiting for great results to come your way and hotels are no different. To beat the competition in your market, you need to do more than wait and hope. The good news is that a well executed plan can generate above-average results for your hotel. You just need to commit to the process and follow through consistently. Generally that means identifying key targets (called market segments) to go after and then generating a proactive plan that includes research, prospecting, relationship building, service delivery, relationship management and tracking. Implementing a hotel sales and marketing strategy can be as simple or as complex as you make it.
The main goal of this guide is to provide value to everyone reading it, regardless of whether you are an advanced hotel Director Of Sales or a beginner who’s thinking about potentially working in the field.
Our hope with this guide is that we will give the beginners enough information about the basics, intermediate salespeople some tips to increase performance and pros some insights to supercharge their results.
We’ll cover every aspect of hotel sales from groups, events, catering, software and more. So, let’s dive in
Chapter 2Hotel Sales Tools And Software
When setting up a Sales Plan, we recommend thinking about software tools as the first step in the process. The reason for this is so that no important data gets lost as you go along the process. You also want to streamline any monotonous work so that you aren’t spending dozens of hours reinventing the wheel. Hotel Sales Tools can do a lot of the work for you, from managing your key contacts, sending proposals and more.
Let’s talk a bit more about the types of tools the pros use.
Sales And Catering Software
The main type of software used in the hotel industry is called Sales and Catering Software. This is a catch-all term our industry uses to talk about any hotel software, which is a bit misleading since only some hotels will have any need for Catering Software. Having said that, almost every hotel needs Sales Software or Catering Software or a combination of the two.
So, for the purpose of explanation, any software used by hotel teams for prospecting, lead management, account management or event management is normally referred to as Sales and Catering Software.
Sales And Catering Software is typically used at full-service hotels. These are hotels that sell guest rooms, room blocks and meeting/event space.
Hotel Sales Software
If your hotel manages any form of leads or inquiries, sends contracts or proposals, sells groups, events or generates corporate rate agreements or works with companies and organizations in any way, you should be using Hotel Sales Software. This software is the central database for storing everything related to your sales process.
The normal features include:
• Account And Contact Management
• ctivity Management
• Lead Management
• Bookings & Statuses
• Group Sales Management
• Corporate Rate Tracking/Management
• Sales Reports
Sales Software is typically used at limited service (or select service) hotels. These are hotels with no meeting space, or limited meeting space.
Catering software is normally used in the process of Event Sales and Operations. It is also called Hotel Sales and Catering software, since normally it includes some aspect of Sales CRM functionality. Guests typically inquire with the hotel about their upcoming meetings and events and from there, the hotel's team will follow up and provide a proposal to the potential customer. Once the customer has booked, the Operations team takes over, organizing their event order which can include space rentals and scheduling, food and beverage orders, rentals (like A/V) and more. The Catering Software typically incorporates this entire process.
The normal features include:
• Lead Management
• Proposals and Banquet Event Orders
• Event and Meeting Bookings
• Space Scheduling
• Event/Meeting Orders (Food, Beverage, AV and others)
• Catering and Event Reports
Catering Software is synonymous with Sales and Catering software and is usually used by hotels and venues with meeting and event space.
Today, many modern Hotel Sales and Catering programs include proposals and contracts inside their systems so that everything is in a single program. In the past though, eProposal and contracting software was purchased separately as an add-on. This included a suite of products, some of which were hospitality focussed and some of which were not. Today, we recommend selecting a software program that has eProposals, Contracts and Document Templates (like BEOs and Group Resumes) all built in.
eProposals are used as part of the hotel sales process. In modern software, eProposals and documents are normally part of a single system.
Hotel RFP Software
There are two main types of RFP software. The first is software the provides you with RFPs for Groups and Events. This includes software like Cvent, HotelPlanner, Lanyon, MeetingsBooker, Groups360, BookingTek and others. The second is a place to track your RFP submissions. We recommend using Hotel Sales Tools for this, specifically, track leads in your hotel sales pipeline by status, owner, date received and next step. You’ll want an easy way to not only respond to RFPs but also to track your win/loss ratio over time so that you can do more of what is working and less of what isn’t.
There are two main types of RFP software: Systems that send RFPs to your hotel and systems that manage the RFPs through the sales process.
Ready To Become A Hotel Sales Pro?
By utilizing the right hotel technology, you can consolidate all of the hotel sales tools you use into a single, cloud-based program so that you have everything in one place. From contracts and proposals, to lead management and operational tools, by utilizing the right tools, you’ll become a Hotel Sales Pro in no time. We recommend you pay specific attention to logging Activities and Accounts when doing sales. By keeping fantastic records on your sales activities, you’ll see what is driving results. By logging Account data, you’ll easily be able to identify the top customers that send you business. We recommend doubling down on those relationships and carefully tracking their production over time. We recommend looking for system that is modern, feature-rich and cloud-based. But first, you’ll need to identify if you are looking for RFP Software, eProposals, Catering Software, Hotel Sales Software or something else.
While there are endless tactics and strategies you can apply to become successful in Hotel Sales, investing in the right software system early on can make or break your sales efforts.
Chapter 3Hotel Sales Leads
Learning about Hotel Sales and the tools used is all well and good, but how do you generate prospects? At Event Temple, we call inquiries, prospects and potential business all: “hotel sales leads”. There are really three main ways to generate leads. The first is through Sales, the second is through Marketing and the third is through building relationships with your existing Hotel Guests.
Understanding The Types Of Hotel Leads
Someone you've prospected
Generated through digital marketing
Generated from an current or past guest
A Sales Lead is really someone whom you have prospected. Prospecting means making a list of potential customers and then proactively making contact with them to see if they have any interest in staying at your hotel, or referring your property to someone at their company. Of course, in a perfect world, prospecting would be as easy as dropping in to visit a new business in person, or sending out a few emails.
In reality though, prospecting requires a deeper sales strategy based on a few key factors including your Comp Set (the competitors in your area) and the Market Segments you are going after. Additionally, your Sales team will need to work closely with your Revenue Management team in designing your proactive prospecting strategy to ensure you get the right mix of business. You’ll need to balance the right market segments with the right types of business (leisure, transient/corporate, groups/events). Prospecting is a loaded topic, but we will provide additional education on our Blog and Mailing List at Event Temple.
A Marketing Lead is someone generated through your Hotel Digital Marketing initiatives. This can include email marketing, social media, paid-per-click advertising, OTA advertising, your website, landing pages or any other form of online marketing. The easiest distinction here is that a Sales Lead is pro-actively generated through your sales team’s prospecting and relationship-building activities. A Marketing Lead is passively generated through an online marketing initiative or campaign.
The last way to generate leads for your hotel is through building relationships with your existing hotel guests. We recommend going into the bar or lobby and getting to know the guests. Ask them what brings them to your hotel and if they are there on business or for a big project, probe deeper. Be authentic and real and do whatever you can do to make their stay more enjoyable.
Mine your PMS for corporate emails and reach out to them if you weren’t able to meet them in the lobby - ideally while they are still at the property or within a day or so of leaving. Let them know you appreciate and value their business and you’d be surprised how many sales opportunities are already staying at your property. Think of it as creating a mini referral network where you’ll convince existing guests to come back more often and hopefully bring their friends, family and co-workers too. They’ll also provide you with important insights about what is going on in your market. In our experience, the very best salespeople start here, with their existing guests.
Hotel Lead Management
Getting the leads is one thing, but if you don’t follow up with them properly, you are likely to lose their business. That’s why we always teach our hoteliers that “getting the lead” is only the beginning. Hotel Lead Management is one of the most important success factors to look at when evaluating the performance of your Hotel Sales Plan.
First, you don’t want to have a “leaky bucket”, which is when you have a sales pipeline filled with leads but no follow up. Instead, we recommend using a systematic approach where you map out each step in your sales process for various types of business. Corporate Travellers, Groups and Events are good places to start.
We also recommend setting up tracking for your various referral sources where they are likely to find you online. This includes all of the major advertising you are doing such as Cvent, Hotel Planner, but also Prospecting. We recommend tracking Market Segments.
Finally, good lead management involves tracking which salesperson owns the lead and what their next step with that Deal is. We recommend that hoteliers always have a next step. Mapping out all of your Referral Sources, Market Segments, Sales Pipeline Steps and Follow Up Steps into a visual process is an integral part of any Hotel Sales Plan.
The right software tools do this right in the program, but it can be done manually in Google Docs or Excel as well. Whatever you choose to use, we recommend you spend a day or two planning your strategy and making your Sales Activities clear. Then, when reporting on the success of your Lead Management, you can measure your team’s actual performance against your plan and fix any mistakes or shortcomings.
Plan first, then act.
Chapter 4Glossary Of Terms
Hotels certainly have their own language and there are entire glossaries of Hotel Terms online.
This isn’t done to confuse anyone, it’s just that hotels have their own unique ways of operating.
Why Revenue Management Terms Matter
Pretend for a moment that you have a hotel with 100 rooms, selling for $100 a night each. You have 365 nights a year to sell those rooms. That’s a total opportunity of $3,650,000 if you sell every room for $100 a night. But of course, some nights will be more popular than others. As well, some seasons will be more popular with certain traveller types than others. Events, Time of Year, Business Type and Day Of The Week will all impact your revenue. The process of weighing these factors against each other to decide which business to accept and which business to reject is called Revenue Management.
We recommend that everyone in hotel sales and marketing learns at least the basics of Revenue Management at some point on, early in their career if possible. That’s because Revenue Managers can cause salespeople a lot of frustration and vice versa without the correct background knowledge. Once you understand that your job in Sales is completely aligned with the Revenue Managers goal, you can both work together to create a plan to optimize revenue based on deep data insights.
Hotel Terms You Should Know
ADR (Average Daily Rate)
Average daily rate is calculated by dividing the price of the room by the number of rooms sold on a given day. ADR is typically calculated alongside occupancy rate. Occupancy rate is the ratio of occupied rooms versus total available rooms.
RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room)
When the ADR and occupancy rate are combined, it will give you ‘revenue per available room’ or RevPAR. When you multiply your ADR with your occupancy rate, you will get your RevPar.
SMERF stands for Social, Military, Educational, Religious and Fraternal groups. It is used to describe hotel market segments. There are other market segments too such as Entertainment and Sports.
A negotiated rate is an agreement by a Contact, Company or Organization to book a certain number of room nights in a given time period, in exchange for a discounted rate at your hotel. Though seldom enforceable, these negotiated rates are often agreed to contractually between the hotel and the Contact/Account. These are often called “Negotiated Rates”, “Corporate Rate Agreements”, “Local Negotiated Rates” or “LNR”.
In Hotel Sales, a budget is essentially a sales forecast. For each month, you budget what the expected revenue and occupancy will be for various business types. For example, you might plan to generate $200,000 from Group Business in June, $250,000 in July, etc. Some budgets are very simple and only assign revenue amounts per each forward-looking month, while other budgets are quite complex and include market segments, revenue targets and more. Normally budgets are set through collaboration between the hotel’s sales and revenue management teams.
Once a budget is set, hotels use Pace Reports to monitor their performance against their goals.
The main numbers used in a Pace Report are:
-Actual performance against budget
-Actual performance vs same time last year
Performance is typically measured by RevPAR, ADR and Occupancy but is also tracked by revenue.
Pace reports can be used for groups, catering, events, corporate rate agreements and more.
When someone inquires with your hotel about group business or an event at your property, it is standard to respond by sending them a Hotel Proposal. Normally, a prospect will request a proposal from several hotels to get a better idea of best value for their money.
The proposal includes a formal quote with a cost breakdown as well as any notes and details that are relevant to their group or event. We have found that proposals that are sent quickly, look beautiful, are informative and are easy to sign digitally are normally the proposals that convert the highest number of leads to bookings.
To successfully negotiate more corporate rate agreements and to book more groups and events you’ll need to create a comprehensive sales strategy. Our goal at Event Temple is to provide education that empowers hoteliers like you to create more effective strategies that you can leverage to gain better results more quickly and outperform your competitors.
Develop A Hotel Sales Strategy
Building a successful strategy comes from answering a few key questions about your unique situation. From there, you can build an actionable plan that addresses your property's sales goals. For each action item in your sales strategy, ensure they are within your control to execute and clearly measurable.
Answer The Following Questions To Build A Sales Strategy:
• What does your prospecting program look like?
• Have you identified clear market segments to target? Have you prioritized them in order of importance?
• Have you worked in collaboration with Revenue Management to identify the right mix of Corporate, Group and Event business or your hotel?
• Have you created a targeted list of prospects (including Accounts and Contacts in your area)?
• Have you included important information on your prospect list including address, email and phone number?
• Have you identified the sales activities you will do when performing outreach? (Call, email, drop in, etc)
• Have you identified key questions to ask prospects in advance? How about objections?
• Are all of your contract and proposal templates ready?
• Do you have a clear plan to turn prospects into sales leads if they are in fact interested?
• Have you created a clear and fair plan to measure not just Pace but also Sales Activities?
• Do you have a clear meeting cadence?
• How will you find the right salespeople?
• How will you keep them?
As you define your sales strategy you’ll also want to identify key upselling techniques. We recommend mapping out the guest journey at your property and all the points of contact where you might be able to reach them.
Each of these contact points are potential opportunities for upselling. For example:
• When they sign up for your marketing materials
• When they book online or over the phone
• When they check in
• While they are on-property
• At their meeting/event
• When they check out
• After they have left the property (Via marketing + sales touchpoints)
Often, as hoteliers we think of upselling as the classic “hard sell” -> asking to upgrade their guestroom, purchase a spa package etc. But we recommend you expand your view on upselling and instead consider the Customer Lifetime Value of the entire Account, not just the single guest.
By Account, we mean their company, organization or even personal network. What can you do to turn this one-time guest into future bookings? As you map this out, try to come up with strategies for a number of Guest Personas (Corporate Traveller, Leisure Traveller etc). Find out how you can identify them (by marketing channel, etc). Over time, you will find that there are upselling and relationship-building opportunities for every Guest Persona.
Hotel Group Sales
In many hotels, groups drive up to 40% of revenue. When done properly, group sales business can help you increase RevPAR during months where you would typically have low occupancy and/or ADR. But done incorrectly, groups business can actually cost you money by displacing other higher priority guests who are willing to pay more.
Hotel Group Sales And Revenue Management
To give an extreme example, you wouldn’t book a wedding room block for 20 people at $100 per night while the superbowl is going on across the street. Yet in our experience, this is exactly what happens with General Managers, Sales Managers or even sometimes Directors Of Sales aren’t aligned with Revenue Management. For this reason, it is important to build a group sales strategy in advance, month over month for the entire forward-looking year using historical and market data. From there, we recommend building a sales plan specifically for groups in addition to your Hotel Sales Strategy.
Group business can be especially powerful as not just a revenue generator but as for creating word-of-mouth marketing and lead generation since you have a large number of people being brought to the property. Perhaps for example a coach brings his sports team to stay at your hotel and one of the parents of the children on the team happens to be planning travel for a different team. It’s easy to see how, when done right, a hotel group sales plan can lead to many more business growth opportunities. When making the plan consider how you will prospect for new business, build and retain relationships, maximize word of mouth opportunities from guests while they are on-property, and how you will maximize sales conversions for group business leads and RFPs.
By our estimates, about 40% of the hotels in the world have meeting space. Some properties have a single room while others have thousands of square feet of meeting space with multiple rooms.
Developing An Event Sales Strategy
Depending on your meeting space and its importance to your revenue, you will also need an Event Sales Strategy. When we say “Event Sales” we mean MICE business -> Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing and Exhibitions. We also mean Catering and Events.
Smaller properties often use meeting space as a free comp for guests to incentivize their group to stay at the hotel, or to sweeten the deal as part of a corporate rate agreement. Their meeting space is not a big revenue driver for them and it is effectively there just to make the hotel more competitive in incentivizing corporate guests. For other hotels, their event space is one of the main drivers of their revenue and revenue management is important not just for the guest rooms but for the event space as well. They track event space room rental fees, food and beverage spend and more.
Whether your hotel has 1 meeting space or many, you’ll want to create a comprehensive event sales strategy.
When creating this strategy, we recommend following the same tips we’ve given for your greater Hotel Sales Strategy, but you’ll also want to think about the following:
• What types of events are you targeting?
• What events are most suitable for your space?
• What changes could you make to your event space to make it more competitive?
• Who are your core competitors for not just your hotel, but also for your meeting and event space?
• What large local events are upcoming in your area and how can you work with them to become a preferred partner for meeting break out space?
• How can you utilize landing pages to have your hotel show up on Google searches for local events?
• Who are the local meeting and event planners in your area?
• Does it make sense for you to join local organizations like MPI and ILEA to meet them?
• How are you marketing to weddings? Are you marketing on sites like WeddingWire?
• Do you need to attend tradeshows? Which ones?
• What is your lead response plan for each segment of event business?
• Do you have proposal and contract templates prepared?
• Have you prepared your menu and pricing?
• Will you rent out any event equipment?
• How will you leverage third party relationships? (Like AV partners, F&B partners etc) to drive business?
• Are you listed on all of the popular event venue websites (like MeetingsBooker, BookingTek, MeetingPackage, Groups360, Cvent, HotelPlanner, etc)?
• Do you have a relationship with your local CVB and Tourism Board?
• What important networking events do you need to attend?
• What marketing collateral (digital and offline) is required to make your event sales initiative successful?
Chapter 6Additional Resources
Answering all of the questions outlined in this guide is imperative in developing a sales strategy. If it seems daunting don’t worry, we'll cover more details, tips and tricks in our blog, ebooks, webinars and more! We also provide free resources like proposal templates, BEO templates and others.
Learning Resources, Downloads And Templates
The Event Temple Blog
Our blog is full of resources, tips and strategies aimed to assist you with both sales and digital marketing as well as tech trends and industry updates.Visit Our Blog
Group Sales CRM EBook
In this E-Book, we dive deeper into the topic of Hotel Group Sales and outline how using the right technology can help supercharge your group sales process.Get The E-Book!
Banquet Event Orders
Free downloadable Banquet Event Order Templates for hotels, restaurants, event venues and more. This is the next best thing if you don't have Catering Software.Get The Templates
Event Temple Medium Blog
From time to time, we post education content on our Medium page in addition to our regular blog and email list. We recommend following us on there too!Follow Us Here
We post education information on our company here. We include product comparisons, case studies, webinars, integrations, product pricing and more.Learn More About Us
Ultimate Hotel Sales Guide
Want to learn more hotel sales strategies from peers in your industry? In this eBook, we profile multiple hotel sales pros to learn what made them successful.Get The E-Book!
About The AuthorBob Graham - Event Temple
My name is Bob Graham and I am the CEO and one of the co-founders here at Event Temple. We build Hotel Sales and Catering Software here in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our mission is to empower others to do amazing things and we believe that the two best ways to do that are through education and technology. Though I’d like to take credit for all of the ideas in this guide, almost everything here has come from conversations with talented people in our industry, from customers to prospects, vendors to consultants and more.
If you have something you'd like to contribute, we’d love to hear from you.