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Who Moved My Cheese?

Dr.Spencer Johnson is the author of Who Moved My Cheese? It has sold more than 16 million copies. It is a fable that tells the story of change, but it is told in a simple way. You see, his mice are simply used to new cheese arriving daily. They eat it, enjoy it and expect it every day. Surprisingly, they never question where it is coming from. They just assume it will arrive. One day, there is no delivery. The next day, no delivery either. By the third, the mice are worried. After a few more days, some take action, the rest do not. Naturally, different actions have different outcomes, some survive, and some do not. Funny enough, this could sound like “give us this day our daily sales”

“Sorry Sir, I’m afraid that’s not my job”

But of course it isn’t! It’s the Sales Directors, isn’t it? …. Or is it? Sales to a Hotel are like fuel to a car. Strange then that nobody is ‘responsible’! In fact, it is, it’s everybody’s responsibility. The first trick of successful selling is to make that understood. The second, is to make it part of the culture. The third? To make it happen. Peter Drucker, the management Guru, gets it about right. In his book, The Age Of Discontinuity he wrote “Management is simple but not easy. The simple part is knowing what to do. The part that is not easy is getting others to do it.” If this applies to you, your hotel, or your people, hang tight, you are in for a white knuckle ride! Lucy Horan of DIT is passionate about hospitality and students. It’s a cocktail that bubbles over with energy and effervescence. Some time back Lucy sent me ‘Think Strawberries’ by James Lavenson, President of The Plaza Hotel in New York. The article, written over 30 years ago, is the best guest care (and sales!) article ever written. It’s a sturdy long read but compelling once you begin. It’s simple, yet central thesis, is that every single member of your hotel is a sales person. To that, we say Amen!

Do you? Do you really? Really and truly….honestly?

Most people, if they are honest, do not really know the difference between sales and marketing. Most people tend to wrap them together. Most sales people would rather say they are in ‘marketing’ as if ‘sales’ was a slightly dirty word. In truth, they are two halves of a whole but entirely different halves. In short, Marketing is everything that you do to reach and persuade prospects. The sales process is everything that you do to close the sale and get a signed agreement or contract. Get this right and you will make progress, get it wrong, it will be an expensive mistake. Why? Read on!

The Man with the Sea Shells

Early in my career, I was interviewed by a kindly consultant who was retained by my future boss to weed out the good from the bad. That, in itself, was a wise move! He was an astute, calm, deep, sort of chap. I admired him and I admired his judgement, skill and intuition. He told me a story that I have always employed in one of those ‘intuitive’ situations! “Conor, your intuition is a very useful tool but it can have the occasional ‘blip’ too. It was the final interview for a senior sales director’s role. The previous candidates were uninspiring. I would not have offered any of them the job. In came ‘Mr.Perfect’ sharp, bright, immaculate, calm, warm and so on. In my mind, he already had the job. After the interview he got up to leave. I was drawn to the beautiful leather briefcase and I was also drawn to the very strange sound it made. As Mr.Perfect was about to leave, I asked him what that strange sound was. He beamed from ear to ear and said …’I’m so glad you asked me that question, it’s my collection of sea shells, I bring them everywhere with me” He did not get the job.

Wisdom at Work

Our own line is ‘Wisdom at Work’ It was inspired by a wise man. Recently, we were assisting in the selection and appointment for a senior position. Our client is that wonderful humble expression of understated success. No airs, no graces, just full of wisdom. After several interviews, we were all agreed that nobody really stood out. Wisdom said we should start all over again and that we would not accept second best. His line, going out the door, is permanently etched. He said “You know, the problem is that the guys you really want for this job should not be available for interview” With a little cryptic thinking, it made perfect sense. A job should never be designed around the person. You must define the job first and then seek out the right person. Nowhere is this truer than in Sales.

What a Lovely Man!

Did you ever ask somebody how an interview went? Often, the reply will be “Oh he is such a lovely man” In fact, that was neither the question nor relevant, it can even be dangerous. Of course Mr or Miss Sales Professional are great at interviews, it’s their skill. But, being seduced by personality alone is not nearly enough. Of all the professions, sales people are ‘in their element’ in the interview process.
Recruiting the right sales person is something that requires more depth, research and investigation. How often are references really checked? How often do you hear what you want to hear? How often do you ask simple, provocative but revealing questions such as “What are they bad at? What is their biggest failing?” The answers will be revealing. Wisdom will say that two heads are better than one. Always have two people interview Mr or Mrs Right; always check out their references, always probe and then probe deeper. Remember my wise friend? Why are they available? Get it right they will add huge value. Get it wrong and they will damage your business. The worst part is that it will take you six months to find that out.

The Man on the Kegs

A few years back, a kindly client met me at 8 am. Our meeting room was the cellar of his hotel, he owned three. As we talked, he was calmly licking stamps and sealing envelopes. I sat on my keg transfixed. After awhile, I asked him what he thought his job to be. He answered quizzically and said “I’m a hotelier” I nodded and said “Yes, you are but you are also the Chief Executive of a multi million euro business. Do you think licking stamps is the best use of your time?” Hotels are more than hotels; they are a business that happen to be in the hotel business. Today, they need to know lots of things they never had to know, like human resources, marketing, health and safety, legal issues, employment law and, yes you got it, ‘sales’ No business, employing lots of people, with an emphasis on customer service, turning over lots of money, can even begin to think about a future without some ‘sales’ expertise. If you don’t, your competitors surely will. Fail to see this and you are agreeing to future failure.

What’s the Plan?

Many hotels cannot afford a full time sales person. Unless they are spectacularly lucky, the person they can afford is not worth having. Tough but true. Great selling is not, absolutely not, in the gift of one shining white knight who will be your saviour. If they promise you that (you know, the thing you want to hear?) beware. Sales and selling is everybody’s responsibility. If your staff interact, in any way, with guests, they are responsible. To be successful three things must happen 1) they must understand that 2) they must take responsibility for that 3) it must become part of their culture, not a project. This can only be achieved by changing your thinking, your teams thinking, and through training. But, before that, you must have a plan (that’s the simple term for strategy!) You would hardly take on the enemy without a plan, or would you? Strategic selling is simple if there is a plan. A plan is not complex, it is simple. Like everything, it has fundamentals. Simply followed it will bring rewards. Ignored, failure will soon follow. Any Sales plan should include; what you offer. Who wants what you have. Where are they? How will we get to them? What will we say when we get there? How will we measure what we are doing? How will we know its working? Then, measure everything.

Ask the Experts.

You know how to run a hotel, that’s your expertise. However, if you are not sure how to engineer successful sales, then call in the experts. The secret to successful sales is to 1) know your assets and what makes you different 2) know how to communicate in a way that allows you stand out from the crowd 3) know your market 4) know what they want 5) know how to reach them 6) know how to entice them 7) know how to inspire them 8) know how to keep them. Finally, know what you don’t know, and ask for help. The answers and the knowledge lie within. The trick is to let it out. We know, we built a business on making hotels solve their own problems.

My Word!

In an ever more sophisticated market, people are not price conscious, they are value conscious. It’s not what it costs, it’s what I get. Nothing is more uninspiring than 2xDBB+1XYZ PPS PN all for only €99.99+VAT+SERVICE PP Subject to T&C Language, and how you use it, sets the tone and ought to set out your stall. Think of an advert that said; “Imagine a beautiful hotel. Imagine a woodland walk. Imagine family smiles by a roaring fire. Imagine great food and a great nights sleep. Imagine no more, be there” Not perfect but more inspiring than you know what!

The Last Word.

Our company is full of great people. We encourage learning, debate and fun. We never have meetings, we have dinner. We listen, we share, we talk and we learn. It’s our way of investing, teaching and training. We do it because it makes us wiser and sharper. Hotels are about an experience, an adventure. Adventures, experiences and memories are only ever created by people. Unique hotels require unique people and unique people can create great sales. Capture your biggest single ‘sales’ asset through training, encouragement, learning and fun and they will reward you. If you do, your cheese will continue to be delivered and that famous hotel prayer “Give us this day our daily sales” will be answered.

Conor Kenny is head of Hospitality Industry Consultants Conor Kenny & Associates Limited.