By Doug Kennedy After more than 20 years in the business of front desk and reservations sales training, I’m extremely excited that a new white paper study has confirmed what we trainers have known all along: training our staff to ask for the sale will increase the likelihood of getting the business. The study which is entitled “The Factors That Lead to More Reservations: A Statistical Analysis of Scored Phone Calls and Bookings,” is a collaborative effort between ContactPoint LLC and Dr. Kyle Wells, PHD, MBA, of the Udvar-Hazy School of Business at Dixie State College. ContactPoint and Dr. Wells analyzed 4400 recorded actual phone calls from 30 hotels in 14 states. The population included hotels from market segments including economy through upscale. The calls analyzed were not “staged” mystery shopping calls, but rather real calls from real hotel prospects recorded using ContactPoint’s LogMyCalls call tracking and monitoring tool. The researcher’s objective was to find out what specific actions, words, and tactics increased the likelihood of the caller committing to a reservation. As a hotel sales trainer, what stands out the most for me is that the simple act of offering to secure the reservation made the caller 4.4 times more likely to book the reservation. Put another way, that means the hotel or call center has a 440% greater chance to get the sale if the agent just asks. Yet the study also found that hotel Guest Services Agents (GSR’s) in the study only asked for the sale 52% of the time; call centers ask even less frequently at just 42%. With a sales tactic as important as this, it makes one wonder why this is not used 100% of the time. The results also found another huge area of opportunity, which is to train the staff to overcome resistance to booking. The study found that in 610 of the 4400 calls analyzed, the potential guest exhibited some resistance to reserving a room. This resistance ranged from the price being too high, to the property not being centrally located, to the potential guest just calling for “information.” Regardless of the reason for the caller’s resistance, the findings show that persistence pays off more than any other single thing a GSR or reservations agent could do. When agents refuse to give up and instead use any number of methods, such as reiterating the value, creating urgency, or removing barriers to booking now, callers who initially resist are 12.6 times more likely to book the room. It goes without saying that simply asking for the sale and overcoming resistance alone will not alone increase call conversation rates, and the study confirmed the influence of other factors as well. As a trainer I’ve often said that closing the sale starts with the opening greeting and a positive first impression. The study seems to support this philosophy. The results revealed advantages to using other sales basics, such as using the caller’s name, which made it 2.5 times more likely that the caller would want to secure the reservation. The findings also suggested that rather than simply reading a list of features, using vivid adjectives when describing the rooms, the grounds, the views, and the room attributes, results in the caller being 1.6 times more likely to book the room. Taken collectively, if all of these sales essentials are used consistently by all GSR’s or reservations agents, the potential impact on call conversion can be very significant. Even if your hotel, resort, vacation rental, or call center is not within the demographics of the survey’s mainstream population, the results seem to prove a direct correlation between the use of basic sales tactics and increased call capture rates. It is a great reminder of the importance of training and coaching every associate who is staffing “The Storefront Window” of your hotel or resort. Take a moment to calculate the potential ROI on even a small increase in call conversion. First calculate the potential value of every transient phone call you receive: - Transient average rate x transient average stay. - Add “Average revenue per guest” if you are a full service hotel or resort with numerous revenue generating outlets. (i.e. Spa, golf, F&B, gaming, retail.) Then take that potential revenue per booking and calculate the potential revenue if every GSR or reservations agent got just one more sale per shift. Although the resulting number should be enough to catch the attention of the executive management team, this study now shows that the ROI could be significantly more than one more booking per day. Here are some training tips for your next in-house meeting: - Always ask for the caller’s name and use it conversationally throughout the call. - Determine whether the caller has stayed previously, and if they haven’t then paint a picture of the hotel experience using vivid language, rather than listing available features. - Remind your staff that closing the sale benefits everyone, including the caller as it ensures availability and locks-in the rate. - When caller’s resist an initial attempt to secure the sale, ask questions such as “Is there something special you’re looking for that I’ve not mentioned?” to find out if the caller has a “product” or price objection. - For “product” objections, offer alternatives and reiterate benefits of what you “do” have and what “is” available. - For price objections, reiterate value. If low to moderate demand, offer lower-rated room options or specials. - Create urgency and remove barriers to booking right now and ask for the sale again. By training your GSRs and Reservations Agents to use sales techniques such as these, your hotel will not only convert more inquiry calls into bookings, and along the way provide a positive first impression of your hotel’s overall levels of guest service excellence. To download a free copy of the study for your hotel, management company, or call center, just click on the following link: