Tag Archives: sales tip

It's About Product Positioning And Not All About Price!

I talk to Sales Managers at hotels on a regular basis and one of their most commonly asked questions is “What will it take for us to win this piece of business?”

“Well you can lower the rate to $99, give me a 1 per 20 comp, waive the attrition, and throw in the Presidential Suite for me and the family for the week!”

OK, let’s get serious and break down the question to its simplest form.

“What will it take” are four words that should send a chill up the spine of every customer who is posed the question.  Why?  Because it’s “old school inside the box sales 101”.  It’s “let’s go down the price path” which gives you and the customer nothing more to discuss than price point.

Now close your eyes…take a deep breath…exhale…and repeat this sentence…“What do I need to know that will allow us to provide you with the best deal possible?”  Now open your eyes.  See, you feel much better now don’t you?

“What do I need to know” are words that say “I need to find out what you’re really looking for so I can best position and offer that’s a win-win”.

You see it’s about product positioning and not all about price.  Here are some thoughts that will help you to position your product and close more deals.

Find attributes about your hotel that your customer can hang his hat on.  You need to find deliverables that inspire, motivate, and encourage the customer to seriously consider you as a candidate for the short list or a contract.  Remember that price is only one part of the equation.  If your hotel can’t stand up and deliver after the contract is signed, price means nothing.

Here is how Boca Raton Resort positions their resort…”Designed by legendary architect Addison Mizner (I don’t have a clue who this guy is), Boca Raton Resort, The Waldorf Astoria Collection (that’s selling sizzle) has reigned as an icon of elegance for more than 80 years (that’s staying power, reliability and consistency).  Today, the resort remains faithful to its glamorous past (here’s the hook), but radiates a vibrant new energy (not a musty 80-year old resort on the beach) and offers infinite amenities to provide each guest with the perfect getaway” (there’s something here for everyone).

If you’re the ABC Airport Hotel, you still have attributes that are particular to your market niche IF you take the time to look for them with a new attitude.

Let’s examine an analytic model of competitive market equilibrium in the presence of switching costs?  But seriously you need to understand your competitive set and the perceived “switching cost” for a customer.  Switching costs or switching barriers are terms used in microeconomics, strategic management, and marketing to describe any impediment to a customer’s changing of suppliers.  This is essentially what you are dealing with every time you sell against your competitive set.

Reinvent the customer experience.  There are so many things that have changed in this world over the past 12 months and those changes have directly or indirectly impacted both you and your prospective customer.  What’s important to your customer today may not be the same thing that was important to him 12 months ago.  Look for those signs, rethink the customer experience, and take advantage of it.

Position your product relative to the market leader in your competitive set.  Publicly or to prospective customers, always put your hotel on the same level as the market leader in your competitive set.  It elevates your hotel in terms of customer perception and allows you to sell without the need to “look over your shoulder”.

Find support for your hotel in and outside of your four walls.  Right now there is a customer checking out at your front desk who can attest to the great experience that he had while attending a meeting at your hotel.  Are you in your office pushing paper or out polling a potential army of supporters?  It’s actually kind of a fun exercise especially if you can find someone who is not rushing out the door to catch his next flight.

Share your success story about how you are positioning your product or services?

Tom Costello is the CEO, Partner & Co-Founder of Groups International, a company that provides marketing, consultative services, and technology solutions to the group and leisure travel markets.  Connect with him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Facebook or contact him by email.

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Etiquette Is A Simple Balance Of ‘Give’ And ‘Take’…”First Converse, Then Commerce”

When was the last time you attended a networking event and you were approached by a person who was more interested in pitching his product or services with little regard of who you were and what you did?   Most likely the last networking event you attended.

Dictionary defines etiquette as conduct or procedure required by good breeding or prescribed by authority in social or official life. With this definition as a guiding principle, etiquette is even more important in a networking situation than in others because most who are in the “taking” end do not even realize that their behaviors and even attitudes are making it hard for those at the “giving” end to be gracious about being considerate.

Why?

Etiquettes are the lubrication that makes things move smoothly. Ignoring them can create unnecessary friction and hurt. Practicing the right etiquette will not only get what you want, it will also help you position yourself in a differentiated way in the eyes of those who are at the “giving” end!

Ways To Win New Clients

Many small businesses ring in the new year by taking a fresh approach to winning new clients. Whether you plan to reinvent your company or just attract an untapped demographic, there are a few ways to achieve your goals.

First, you must identify your ideal customer.  Do you know your target?  What do they do? What do they value?

After pinpointing your audience, reposition your message to gain those customers. Work your connections, but keep in mind, it’s tougher than ever to land deals.  These days, your potential clients might be hurting or short of funding, says Mike Silverman, managing partner of engineering-services firm Ops A La Carte LLC in Santa Clara, Calif. “If you’re fairly new at this, you really have to not be afraid of rejection,” Mr. Silverman says. “You can’t give up. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Here are three best ways to win new clients.

1. Go where the growth is. Silverman says he attended trade shows for a few core industries that were doing well (medical, oil and gas, green technology, defense and space), and concentrated on specific geographic regions including the San Francisco Bay area and southern California. This helped the firm not be spread too thin, Mr. Silverman said. More than half of 2009’s revenue came from these specific industries, he says.

At Homestead Resort, in Midway, Utah, general manager Britt Mathwich says the hotel made a quick shift away from the corporate and training market to families, after seeing a slump in business travel. The resort picked up more business by attending home-decorating and bridal shows, he says.

Walt Maclay, president of engineering-consulting firm Voler Systems, a division of Strawberry Tree Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif., says he attended a medical trade show in 2009 for the first time in several years, because the medical device industry is stable. “People still get sick, even in a recession,” Mr. Maclay says.

2. Ally with other businesses. Maclay also is partnering with companies that provide similar or complementary services to pick up new clients. For instance, he’s now working on two projects that combine Voler’s electrical-engineering expertise with the other firm’s mechanical-engineering specialty. Other businesses are temporarily re-assigning employees. Law firm Schiff Hardin LLP, has taken the strategy of secondment, or “lending” lawyers to companies for positions such as general counsel, says Ronald Safer, managing partner in Chicago. The partnership can help a business that may be a potential future client, and allow Schiff Hardin’s lawyers to learn that business intimately.

3. Use online tools. Reach out to others by maintaining a blog or a Facebook page with useful, educational content. Social-networking tools are also places to post promotions. Mr. Maclay says he gained new clients by posting the company’s resume on Craigslist. Marie Danielle Vil-Young, owner of event-planning company À Votre Service Events LLC, says she is redesigning her Web site to attract a specific audience—young, professional brides—by changing the site’s colors to black, hot pink and white. Ms. Vil-Young said social-networking is important; her intern’s sole responsibility is to research and write for the company’s blog.

The Role of Empathy

Think of yourself as a coach. Your clients have travel ambitions. Your professional expertise can help them to achieve their goals. What you are selling is your ability to assist the client in making a wise purchasing decision. Your expertise is only important to the client insofar as they benefit from the experience of working with you. Face it – nobody likes to be “sold” anything. People love to make smart buying decisions, however. To the extent that you can assist your clients to be smarter and better informed in their buying decisions, the stronger the relationship you will form over the long term. For that reason, let’s spend a couple of days looking at both the inner and the exterior environments that you want to establish in which to best effect the sales process.

The psychological shift you want to achieve with clients is one of perspective. Imagine yourself literally moving around to your client’s side of the table. You are not pushing concepts, “deals” or travel product across the table to them. Instead, you are looking firstly at their needs and secondly at the travel products that best meet those needs. Then, together, you arrive at the best possible selection, coaching the client into a good buying decision.

Doesn’t that sound like the way you would like to buy a product? With a well informed, expert coach at your side looking out for your interests?

For your client to fully appreciate this approach to sales, you will have to describe it to them. Very likely, your client will come to you filled with apprehension and misapprehensions. The client may not understand what your services entail. The client may think the entire key to travel is embodied in the word “deal” and be placing all of their emphasis on pricing.  Your clients are almost certainly both excited and, if they are new clients, worried. Remember – they get to travel on vacation once or twice a year.  Maybe less.  They are about to turn the process of planning over to you, along with several thousands of their hard earned dollars.  Isn’t it understandable that they have some concerns?

Thus, your first task is to understand the fears and concerns your client has about working with a travel agent. Tell them how you work, how you view your responsibilities. Let them know the successes you have had in the past for other clients. Speak in terms of enjoyment, satisfaction and memories, not in terms of price. Explain the concept of value and make sure that your client knows that you will take responsibility for finding the best possible value for them, regardless of their circumstance.

Most probably, your new client works under the assumption that there is always a “better deal out there” and that everyone in the world is managing to travel more cheaply than they are. It is this price-driven mentality that is the most difficult obstacle both you and your client will face. For you, the obstacle amounts to a sales hurdle. For your client, however, the situation is worse. If you are not able to shift the emphasis away from price to value, your client risks great disappointment with their vacation – no small issue given the cost of travel. There is always something “cheaper” – you can buy a cheaper car, house, television…the real question is one of value. As a professional you must be able to first understand this concern and then to shift your client’s understanding to value.

So what is a travel agent to do? Many agents greet these exercises with exasperation. A better response, however, is to grasp a client’s focus on price as entirely understandable. Most clients have a retail paradigm in mind when they come to you. They think you sell travel. If you do not explain your role as a consultant, how can the client know better? Your task is to engage the client in an open discussion of your role, and importantly, their needs. You have to make the client comfortable with your role, and, incidentally, with their own.

Source – Richard Earls

Looking For New Business? Call Your Existing Clients!

Your current client base is your most valuable asset. Having purchased products or stayed at your property, your clients know have a pretty good idea what you have to offer.  Holding on to these clients is so much easier than finding new ones because you already know their purchasing habits and there is something about your product or service that they like!

How can you get more business from past clients?  There is but one simple answer:  BY CALLING THEM.  This is obviously basic, but 90% of sales people do not do it! Instead, they wait for the phone to ring (that’s why they’re called “order takers”).  So it bears repeating: Call on your past clients!

In today’s busy world, the need to visit clients in person has lessened, although it is advisable to have face to face time with your VIP clients whenever possible.  However, if you want to retain any client, you have to pick up the phone and call them periodically. If you don’t call them, you can be sure your competition will.