Complex Customer Relationship Management Systems Baffle Hotel Sales Teams

As I make the rounds conducting hotel sales training, I am afforded the opportunity to peek into how hotel group and event salespeople are using a wide variety of what I collectively call “sales CRMs” — or customer relationship management systems.

Having started in the hotel training field in my late 20s, over three decades ago, I have seen hotel sales lead processes evolve.

Ironically though, when I ask salespeople to show me how they trace leads, what I find is that most are using a patchwork system that is, at best, a hybrid and often completely manual.

Plenty of salespeople still work through a stack of paper lead sheets with notes scribbled on them, such as a printout of the original inbound email or in-app “platform” request for proposal.

Some try to manage leads by moving them into Outlook email folders, or by using calendar tasks, or by flagging messages.

Some use Post-it notes stuck on their desktop or in a calendar book.

A few still use a manual “hot lead” list on a notepad or white board on the wall in their office.

An alarming number have no system whatsoever. They simply reply to initial inbound leads and do not follow-up. If they prospect at all, it is generally a one-touch method of sending a generic email or making a phone call to appease an old-school boss who demands “Give me 100 prospecting calls a month or no bonus!”

Oh, these salespeople do use their hotel specific CRMs daily, but mostly to block the inventory of meeting space and rooms.

In all fairness, I completely get why so many underutilize their sales tech. The developers of these systems have made them so complex that the basic, most important functions have gotten buried. It’s almost like the tech companies have tried to out-feature one another. In all fairness to the tech companies, whoever was the “systems administrator” in charge of set-up on the client (hotel) side may have done a poor job customizing the default programming options.

As a result, too many salespeople do not want to even open their “task list” or “lead stream” because there will be so many alerts, pop-ups or other “overdue” task indicators that it gives them angst.

Whether you are shopping for a new sales CRM, or trying to improve your team’s use of the one you already have, you will certainly want to ensure your system covers the very basics, something that most all do these days. It should be easy to import contact details and proposal requests from primary sources and to drop these into templates that can be sent in both PDF format and by way of a link to an online proposal. Of course you’ll want it to easily integrate with your property management system to block rooms and meeting space.

Most importantly, however, your sales CRM needs to make it easy for salespeople to complete these tasks every day:

  1. Easily access all correspondence from a single contact record, such as notes from phone conversations and text message exchanges, email correspondence (ideally, linking all emails sent and received to the record), and documents that were sent or received.

    Having these details “at a glance” makes it much easier to quickly scan previous correspondence to find details that can be used to personalize correspondence.

    Lacking quick access to these details, salespeople are limited to generic messaging in voicemails, emails and in-app messages.

  2. Make it easy to personalize proposal templates, whether PDF or online proposal. Virtually all sales CRMs allow for the creation of a menu of proposal templates. Yet too often salespeople are sending out generic documents or “online proposals.” In some cases, it may be that the CRM does not make it easy to personalize these details, but more often than not, it is a case of salespeople either not knowing how to do this or not realizing how important it is.

    When you talk to those on the buyers side, they often complain about proposals that take way too long to sort through. For example, when a planner is looking for a one-day meeting of local participants, don’t include all the information about the guest rooms and hotel services. Or if a planner is looking only for rooms, don’t put in the banquet menus and meeting space floor plans.

    In addition, the CRM should make it easy to delete images that are not relevant, add candid photos specific to the planner’s situation and to drop-in the client logo.

  3. Trace the next-step on a sales lead stream or task list. Until a deal is won or lost, the next-step should always rest with the salesperson. The life of a lead might include several tasks such as: setting a Zoom meeting to discover details; following up to ensure receipt of the proposal/ contract (so that it did not go to spam); follow-up to see what initial questions before date of final decision; follow-up on final decision date. If won, a task list reminder to ask for referrals and for recurring business and, if applicable, retracing the lead for next year’s event.

    Salespeople who have to service and detail their own bookings will of course have many more tasks to trace, which is all the more reason why the lead stream/task sheet needs to be clean.

    Speaking of task lists, the CRM should make it easy for the salesperson to delete “auto-tasks” that are not relevant.

All systems allow for these tasks. However, the systems administrator, nudged along by the director of sales, probably has some work to do to reconfigure user-defined options. If your company is looking at changing systems, my suggestion is to look for simplicity and above all, vet out on-boarding training and ongoing support.

Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. Contact him at [email protected].

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or CoStar Group and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to contact an editor with any questions or concern.

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