As I peered out my window, all I saw was a foot of snow covering my yard.
It was December, and the last thing I was interested in talking about was the lawn. As I hung up the phone, I remember thinking how this guys timing was all wrong.
Because the lawn is not what I am thinking about. I’m thinking about how I am going to have to shovel all day.
If, however, he had called in the spring after the snow had thawed and the yard looked really beat up, I would have been more inclined to continue that conversation.
Much like the lawn care dude, many hotel sales managers prospect at the wrong time too. They’ll find a lead in the newspaper or on Google and decide to wing it by calling them.
But that call is doomed for failure
Much like the lawn care dude, you’re probably not calling at the time that prospects are looking to book. And when we fail, we simply chalk it up to some excuse, the most popular of which is “prospecting is a waste of time. No one wants to be bothered by salespeople”.
But that isn’t true at all
Because if that were true, then seven out of ten employees in the US would not be in sales. The problem is not that prospecting is a waste of time, the problem is that we are not prospecting correctly. And one of the most important aspects of prospecting is to call future customers when they are looking to book.
Let’s look at three examples:
Student Youth Groups
Calling teachers that handle student groups in April/May is useless. They are taking their group trips at the time. No one will pick up the phone, and no one will answer your phone calls at that time either.
But if you prepare a list of teachers to call in September and October, you’ll find it far easier to get through. That is when teachers are planning their trips, and group tours are setting up their itineraries. Hotels are top of mind then because decisions are being made and that is when you are going to be most effective with your calls.
Let’s move onto the next example.
There are a ton of baseball and softball tournaments throughout the country (Here are five websites that list softball tournaments). And they usually occur between April and September. But the planning (i.e. room blocks) is done in January and February, for the most part. So calling tournament directors in August will be a complete waste of time.
They are busy taking care of the tournament details, and their accommodations have been set up months ago. What motivation do they have to talk to you then.
Finally, let’s look at our third example, which appears not be seasonal, but is.
Even weddings are seasonal in terms of planning. While engagements happen all year long, Christmas and New Years is the time of the year when a huge number of people get engaged. And guess what happens in January and February? A huge number of weddings get booked.
So if you’re going to be going to bridal expos, go to the ones in January. If you’re going to hang out at Davids Bridal, weekends in January and February are a good time to do so.
As we can see from the examples above, there is a finite window within which we have an opportunity to get in front of different groups and every group has a different window. And in order to increase our chances of success, we need to plan according to when people are ready to book.
So where do we start?
Start by creating a list of different group types. Once you have the list, write down what months each of these group types generally comes to your city.
For a city like Albany NY, there is corporate conference season in October, Cheer groups in the winter months, bus tours in fall, construction crews in the spring, and weddings in the summer. Do a similar batching of when groups come to your city.
How do I know what groups come when?
Every city is different. There are some constants like softball tournaments that usually happen in the summer, but then there are some things that are regional. It could be festivals, ski season etc.
Go back and look through your history and start grouping groups into the months they arrive and you will see a trend. But knowing when they are coming is not the only thing you need to know.
You also need to know when they start planning
Each group type plans differently. Associations plan well ahead of the event (a year or more) because they have to get grants. But cheer groups may only plan three to six months out. It just depends on the group type and the city you are in.
And while you can’t predict who will plan when, what you are trying to do is nail down when the majority of people are planning. And if you don’t know when they plan their event, then the best way to find out is to call your existing groups and ask them. That will give you a good idea of when to call groups that are similar.
Once you have created this list of groups and know when each group type is planning, you know what groups to call when.
So does that mean I should not call groups when I don’t think they are planning?
It’s always okay to prospect no matter what time of year it is. But just like the saying “fish where the fish are¨, you have to decide if it’s worth. You may get lucky with a prospect here and again, but that won’t be the norm. And wouldn’t your time be better off spending it on prospects that are looking to book at that time.
Because every month of every year, there is a group looking to book their event. You just have to know who to call. And with the steps above, you will be able to create a calendar of sorts that will give you a road map so you can prospect successfully.
Unlike the lawn care dude (I never did get his name)
- One of the biggest reasons sales managers fail at prospecting is because they are not calling at the right time.
- Knowing when groups are planning their events is critical to knowing when to call them.
- Once you have a list of when groups plan their events, you increase the chances that your prospecting efforts will bear fruit.
What should you do next?
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