In Tammy Gillis’ new book, “Room to Grow”, she highlights the importance of building a culture of selling. It is her belief – one that we fully subscribe to – that everyone in the hotel organization should have a selling attitude. There are different ways that departments can implement sales strategies into their day-to-day operations to help contribute to the bottom line.
In this blog, we want to highlight the front desk team and how they can help generate sales and revenue from new lead sources.
The front desk is the hotel’s hotspot. It’s the area where guests come to check in, ask questions about the property, and pass along feedback. Your front desk team is usually a guest’s first and last impression of the property. They’re privy to more information about your guests than anyone else on site yet are one of the most underutilized departments when it comes to generating revenue.
Through proactive sales techniques and training exercises, your front desk team can help increase revenue while elevating the guest experience. Here’s how:
1 – Direct Bookings
Direct bookings are the preferred method of collecting reservations. These are reservations that are booked either through your front desk or website. They eliminate the middleman (aka an Online Travel Agency) and save you money on OTA commissions. You’re also able to gather more guest data and market appropriately with a direct booking.
As the GM of a hotel, you’ve noticed an increase in your OTA commission payouts. A quick search of your PMS shows that you have repeat guests booking through OTA channels. You also find that you can increase your bottom line by 10% per repeat booking if your front desk is able to convert OTA bookings to direct bookings.
You schedule a front desk training session. At the end of your session your team understands:
– OTA Commission: Your team has learned that your property pays a fixed commission to OTAs and they can save the business 15-25% in commission if they convert future OTAs into direct bookings.
– Rate Parity: You can’t offer lower rates to hotel guests if they book directly. This is in violation of most rate parity agreements. You can offer the best rate available and match an OTA rate and include on-premise perks.
– Direct Booking Perks: You CAN offer your guests a direct bookings perk package that includes free room upgrades (upon availability), food and beverage discounts, complimentary welcome drink, parking and high-speed internet, early check-in or late check-out, and bonus loyalty points. Every guest who books directly is offered this package at check-in.
– Metrics & Expectations: You set a target for the front desk team to convert 10 repeat OTA guests into direct bookings by the end of the quarter. If they hit this goal, they receive a team cocktail hour and managers will work the front desk that evening.
You have now armed your team with the tools necessary to increase direct bookings while enhancing the guests overall experience at your hotel.
2 – Lead Generation
Your front desk can also be a lucrative source of new leads. It’s important to train your front desk to ask strategic questions throughout their interactions with hotel guests. Developing your team into lead hunters takes time. It involves situational training, on-floor coaching, and positive reinforcement. Your team will need to be comfortable educating guests while also inquiring about them. When done correctly, it adds value to both the guest and to the property.
Let’s look at an example of how you can turn a one-off guest into a sales lead.
John Smith is staying at your hotel with his son. You’re working at the front desk and notice they’re checking in with a hockey bag. The son says, “Hurry up Dad. We don’t want to be late for the team dinner.” You go to check them in and see that they booked through an OTA.
You have two options on how you can move forward with this guest. You can check John in as quickly as possible OR you can ask some strategic questions and convert him and his son’s hockey team into a future lead for group bookings.
A sales focussed front desk team member will choose the latter and insert questions throughout the check in process.
You can ask questions like, “Is the entire team staying here?”, “Do you often travel to <insert city> for tournaments?”, or “Did you know we host a lot of hockey teams at our property? Teams love staying with us because we offer group rates that include early breakfasts and complimentary equipment storage.”
As you learn more about John and his son’s team, you can naturally flow the conversation to end at, ‘Would you like me to pass along your information to our director of sales? They can send you more information about our team group packages and how we can help you have a seamless travel experience from beginning to end.”
By being attentive to John, asking the right questions and educating him about your property’s value propositions in relation to team group bookings, you’ve identified a strong lead for your sales team and you’ve increased your property’s brand awareness through education.
3 – Ancillary Revenue
Last but not least, the front desk team can help increase your property’s ancillary revenue – products or services purchased in addition to a hotel room. Ancillary revenue can come from on-premise amenities like your spa, bar & restaurant, or gift shop. Generating ancillary revenue without seeming pushy takes practice; however, the best in the world are able to easily generate additional revenue by properly anticipating a guests’ needs.
Your front desk team has to play detective and hone in on their observation skills.
To start, we recommend building a cheat sheet for your front desk team. You can match a specific situation with an offer. Here are a few examples:
SITUATION: A guest checks in with a laptop or briefcase. Inquire if they’re staying for business.
OFFER: Ask if they would like to upgrade to high-speed internet or need a small meeting room.
SITUATION: Guest checks in for a 2-week period.
OFFER: Educate them on your in-house laundry or dry cleaning services or offer a suite upgrade.
SITUATION: Guest is checking in at 10:30 PM and their billing address is a 5 hour flight away.
OFFER: Tell them about your room-service menu or any late night offerings on the premises.
SITUATION: A couple is checking in and the weather forecast has taken an unexpected turn – it’s snowing in July!
OFFER: Tell them about your gift shop’s winter clothing sale or ask if they’d like to make an appointment at your indoor spa to stay warm during the storm.
That last situation might be a bit of an outlier but it highlights how you and your team can improve a guest’s experience and increase your property’s overall sales by simply observing and asking questions.
The front desk team is not typically viewed as a function of the sales department. Traditionally, they work in guest services and provide guests with information to enhance their stay. Tap into this resource and improve your competitive advantage by empowering your team with sales training. Not only will they feel reinvigorated by learning a new skill, they will be positively contributing to the business by increasing direct bookings, sales leads, and ancillary revenue.