4 Must-Have Strategies When Selling to Major Hotel Chains
We had the pleasure of interviewing Alyssa Suchy last week where she shared her experience and learnings from selling into major hotel chains for the past 6 years. Throughout this interview, you’ll learn about the nuances of selling to major hotel chains with key insights in:
- Finding the key stakeholders within major hotel chains
- Pitching to major hotel chains
- Identifying compelling events that guide your customer to close
- Why long-term strategy trumps short-term tactics
As a nice bonus, we finish the interview with the four philosophies she followed to skyrocket up her organization as a salesperson.
Interview with Alyssa Suchy
Nudge: Tell me a bit more about your last role, what were you guys doing differently?
AS: The founding team of entrepreneurs were the same ones that launched Blackboard, the school learning management system, and took it to IPO. After Blackboard, one of them was getting married and got really frustrated with that planning process. He thought “I can do this better, there’s so much opportunity here.” so they started it as a way to disrupt the wedding industry with technology.
How it works is that when brides and grooms get engaged, they come onto the platform to plan their wedding. They get set up with all the resources they need including tech tools, access to vendors, venues, a community and more. Then from the advertising side, which is where I was, we sell ad space to these external vendors and venues within the directory.
“We have a huge audience that comes to us with the intent to plan their wedding, and then we sell access to that audience.”
Finding the Key Stakeholders Within Major Hotel Chains
Nudge: So who did you sell to?
AS: I specifically was in the hospitality space, so anywhere that you could host an event. It could be anything from a mom & pop barn to working with a field marketing manager that is in control of 20 hotels in downtown Chicago.
Nudge: With those larger clients, can you tell me a bit about the process of getting them on board?
AS: The exact approach depends on the type of hotel chain. Is it a boutique hotel chain or a major hotel chain? Either way at a high level it’s all about building rapport with the key stakeholders.
At the property level what that process looks like is:
- Convince the director of sales and marketing of your value proposition, because if they invest in your ad vehicle it’s coming out of their budget.
- You have to work with them to get approval from their general manager because the general manager isn’t interested in speaking to salespeople.
- Then at the implementation level, there’s the hotel coordinator who is going to actually be using the product and managing the leads.
We have to get all three of those people on board and then also get their corporate level on board, which comes from the field marketing managers.
For example, if the director of sales and marketing embraces your approach but doesn’t have any budget for it, the general manager might not give them any more money to spend. At that point, you should go to the field marketing manager who has touchpoints at about 20 hotels and can borrow budget from them.
It’s all about getting people to work together and pooling the resources to purchase these ads.
Key Insight: Finding the Key Stakeholders Within Major Hotel Chains
These vary depending on your product’s benefits, but the structure will be similar:
- Find the primary source of budget – the Director of Sales and Marketing
- Find the secondary source of budget – the General Manager
- Find the end user of your product – the Hotel Coordinator
- Find your channels for expansion across the chain – the Field Marketing Manager
How to Pitch Major Hotel Chains
Nudge: Once you know who you’re selling to, how do you sell? How do you get them on board?
AS: It depends. At a high level, before any meeting, I ask them what they want to learn about my product. I don’t launch into a real sales pitch until they tell me that.
I can rattle off our key stats, but sometimes they’re more interested in how often they can change their ad content or what the demographics of the audience are. I make sure I speak to whatever they want to hear, and most of the time that is the return on investment they get and how we track it.
With that in mind, people still buy from people so building a strong rapport is the most important factor. A great way to improve your chances is to focus on being nice to everyone, especially the gatekeepers and the secretaries. If you walk out of a meeting and they’re all saying positive things about you it doesn’t always matter if you’ve got the best product, you’re going to win that business.
On another front, one thing these hotels really care about is residual revenue. If they book out event space then they also get:
- Multiple room bookings
- Room service or mini bar spending
- Spending at the bar downstairs
- If guests enjoy it they’ll tell their friends and come back in the future
All those little pieces of residual revenue don’t always fit into their typical revenue calculations but have a really big impact in selling the value of your services.
Key Insight: How To Pitch Major Hotel Chains
- Build a good relationship with all the stakeholders and get them to like you.
- Develop good discovery questions to uncover the things they care about most.
- Clearly showcase the ROI of your product and how you track it.
- Focus on how you drive residual revenue for them.
Maximizing Compelling Events That Guide Your Customer to Close
Nudge: As you move along, are there things that might deter a deal? How do you get past those?
AS: I would say that advertising can be viewed as a nice-to-have and not a need-to-have, depending on what time of year it is and what their goals are. Turning that nice-to-have into a need-to-have is challenging, one thing I do that helps keep deals moving is highlighting compelling events throughout the sales process.
If I have a good relationship with the client and budget is an issue, then typically I’ll offer them a discount, but those discounts always have firm deadlines. A great way to communicate these internal deadlines to the client is:
“I’m happy to work with you on rates or payment plans, but if I’m going to do that I have to go higher up and get approval. As soon as I ask for that approval we’re on a timeline and I don’t want to come back to you with an end-of-week deadline if that’s not realistic. So what is your realistic timeline and when should I be going to ask for that approval?”
When you’re going through this ensure that if you give them something, you’re receiving some sort of commitment back in return to balance the equation. At the end of the day, I’m evaluated on my discount rate so it really is a give and take.
Key Insight: How to Identify Compelling Events that Guide Your Customer to Close
Consider all of these questions when building compelling events into your sales process:
- Internal analysis: Who or what inside their organization could be affecting a decision? How does that factor into moving your toward a positive conclusion?
- External analysis: Are there any external deadlines or events that could affect the decision making process? How can you avoid missing a decision making period or cycle?
- Personal analysis: How will this decision affect your champion/decision maker at the organization? Do potential bonuses or promotions exist that would incentivize your stakeholder to close?
- Potential consequences: Is there anything negative that could happen if the decision is not made soon? Is there anything negative that could happen if the decision is made too quickly?
Why Long-Term Strategy Trumps Short-Term Tactics in Sales
Nudge: Were there key differences between how you sold and how some of the people on your team sold before you got there?
AS: I would say my big difference is persistence and really being a human being. Some salespeople do not respect the client’s time, push them to close, or are just a little bit too aggressive. For me, I approach every client as playing the long game. If you’re not going to close now, when are you going to close? If I follow up in six months I want to make sure that this is a phone call you want to pick up.
“For me I approach every client as playing the long game.”
Nudge: With this approach, is there any downside?
AS: Absolutely, if you don’t push someone to close when you want them to close, you don’t know if they actually could. Sometimes they can’t but it’s a decision: do I want them to sign now and be unhappy, or do I want to maintain a strong relationship with them and have the opportunity to work with them in the future.
Become an Expert Salesperson and Skyrocket up Your Organization
Nudge: So with all this, you worked your way up through the company pretty quickly. What could you share about that experience?
AS: I never planned on being in sales but when I got into it I ended up being really good. I kept exceeding my numbers, which led to getting promoted. It was really all due to making connections and developing relationships with people in the industry and company, to build understanding of the market.
Key Insight: How to move up quickly through an organization
- Bring in key learnings or best practices that could add value to the business
- Become an industry expert and add value to your team whenever possible
- Network your way throughout the organization
- Play the long game with your relationships
Nudge: Thanks Alyssa.
For more of our recent interviews, check out our blog.