Five Front Desk Fails When It Comes To Group Sales

Chutes and LaddersEver played chutes and ladders?

If you have, then you know how annoying it is when you almost get to the end only to land on a chute that pulls you all the way to the bottom.

We do something similar when it comes to group sales at our hotel.

We do all the hard work of marketing and sales to raise awareness but then we leave a “chute” that so many of our customers fall through, causing us to lose what would be easy business to attain.

Much of this loss occurs at the front desk level because we do not take the time to train our employees. By spending a half hour talking to our front desk, we can remove some major “chutes”, opening up lots of new business prospects.

Here are five things we can train the front desk on to help increase group sales.

  1. Spotting corporate customers that don’t look like corporate customers
  2. What to do when there is a request for receipts or folios by a coordinator
  3. Leave sales packets at the front desk for after hours visitors
  4. Why you need a copy of all tax exempt forms and PO’s
  5. Keep an eye our for new sports teams coming to town

Let’s start with the first one.

1. Spotting corporate customers that don’t look like corporate customers
We all have an image in our minds of the corporate road warrior. But that is not the only kind of business that sends employees out there. Construction companies, road pavers, line striping companies, and tree cutting companies send out crews all over the place to take care of small to large projects.

And most of these small businesses are not sophisticated enough or large enough to bother with a big travel agency or cut a negotiated rate through corporate. These folks stay anywhere from a week to a year or even more. Unfortunately, many of these people check in and check out of our hotels on a weekly basis without us ever knowing about it.

They are not hard to spot of course. They usually come in looking for three to five rooms for a week. They have construction boots on and need King bedded rooms.

We need to train our front desk employees to spot these folks and pass the information onto the sales department. Then its our job to cut a negotiated rate with them or their company.

Let’s move onto the second type of fail and what to do about it.

2. What to do when there is a request for receipts or folios by a coordinator
This is a very common fail at our hotels. Front desk gets a call from an executive assistant and is asked something like this

“Mr. XYZ checked out of your hotel last week, but he failed to submit his receipt to me so he can get reimbursed. Would you be able to email this to me?”

And in almost every case, the front desk agent will email this person the receipt and the matter is closed. Except that this is not where the front desk should stop.

They need to be trained to email you the folio as well so you can look into whether Mr. XYZ’s company has an locally negotiated rate (LNR) with your hotel. This alone will generate one to two additional names in your sales pipeline every week.  Just call the executive assistant and follow the trail back to the person that books hotels for this company to see if you can develop some kind of exclusive relationship.

3. Leave sales packets at the front desk for after hours visitors
Many people don’t keep the same hours as our sales department. Brides, meeting planners, coaches etc. will show up unannounced after hours to have a look. And when they ask for more information, our front desk hands them a card and has them go on their merry way.

What they should be doing is handing them a sales packet and getting their contact information for you.

I can’t tell you how many hotels I have been to where I ask for a group sales packet after hours, and the front desk says “You know, we should really have those at the desk, but we don’t”. People show up at our hotel all the time. and we need to have packets with meeting room information, contact information, and other marketing collateral.

Bonus tip:  Teach the front desk how to give a small tour of the meeting space and the overnight rooms when someone comes after hours.

4. Why you need a copy of all tax exempt forms and PO’s
Government organizations travel with tax exempt forms and many will pay with a P.O. The staff at the front desk know already knows that these forms need to go to accounting.

What we need to do is train them to leave a copy for the sales department too.  The reservation for these guests may provide you contact information for their travel coordinator. Call this person to see to find out how much business they send to your city. After all, where this is one government traveler, there are many more.

Plus, government organizations large and small have meetings. And by building a relationship, you may be able to get in on these as well.

5. Keep an eye out for new sports teams coming to town
At one of our hotels, we got a call a few months ago asking about rates. The person mentioned in passing that they were coming to town with a team for a tournament. To the average front desk, this is useless information. They just want to make the reservation and move on. But that is a big fail.

We need to train our front desk to see beyond that. What tournaments are they coming for? Do they have a room block at our hotel? Do they have a room block at all?

And if these are not the types of questions your front desk is equipped to handle, then they should be enterprising enough to at least get the name of the tournament or event and pass it along to us.

Let’s summarize, shall we

While none of us can ever run a perfect hotel, we can certainly continue to improve in an effort to maximize the leads we receive from the front desk. In order to do that, we need to train the front line staff at the desk to keep an eye out for things that would help us increase the overall sales at our hotels.

Let’s identify those “chutes” in our operations so we can minimize the number of customers that fall through them.

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