Year after year, in surveys conducted by meetings trade publications, as well as by Meeting Professionals International, hotel sales people come up short in one big area. The number one issue that many meeting planners have with hotel staffers responsible for booking groups is that they do not respond in a timely manner, and sometimes never at all.
Today, even with electronic messaging, things seem to be worse than ever before in the area of sales people responding to inquiries. Although the issue still remains with telephone calls and email messages, the problem is very heavy in regard to Request For Proposals. Understandably, some properties receive a very huge batch of these on a daily basis. To some extent, this is a burden to some sales offices with a lack of staffing. Further, sales staffers claim a large amount of these electronic RFPs are “just a waste of time” because the information is being requested of properties that don’t have the facilities to meet the needs of the group functions. So, “why bother to respond?”
The answer to that question is the inquiry could be from a potential prospect for some other business in the future. Anyway, common courtesy dictates that all inquiries should have a response; it is just a good business practice.
Just recently, Hotel & Motel Management received an e-mail message from a meeting planner complaining about having sent out RFPs to 21 hotel properties in specific cities in Pennsylvania and Texas. After two weeks, he received nine responses. No others even acknowledged the inquiries. Of the nine that responded, none followed up by phone.
During a time when hotels are all in need of business, it is unbelievable this would happen. There is so much group business going down the drain because of lack of response to inquiries. There also are complaints about sales people not being available by phone and too many voicemails not being returned.
The big issue here is sales training. Sales staffers need to better understand time management, priorities and that their best prospects are those that come in to them via RFPs. The three best tools for booking business are: follow-up; follow-up; follow-up.