Be in the driver’s seat in 2018 - detailed tips on how to achieve your sales quota in 2018

You may be tracing contracts back right until December 31st of this year, but for most hotel sales professionals, things will slow down the week before Christmas and only pick up in the second week of January. With Executives being mostly on vacation, signatures and commitments are hard to obtain - so how can you best use your time in the office?

It is during these wonderfully quiet weeks that you can reflect on the past 12 months and plan for success in 2018. Which pieces of business moved the mark for your financial results this year (and how can you get more of these)? Which sales trips brought leads and which ones only kept you busy? And how can you best plan for success? 

A goal without a plan is just a wish (Tweet It!), so use this 3 STEP guide to make your mark in the year to come. Before planning out 2018 though, take a look at the past 12 months to see what you should and what you should not repeat. 

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Analyze your annual results 2017

Your own annual review works best if you use the same reports and metrics every year, as this will give you history figures and allow you to draw comparisons. 

Start by pulling the following reports for each quarter and each of your sales territories. 

  • Confirmed business, including room rates by room type
  • Lost business with turndown reasons, including room rates by room type

1. Calculate the % increase/decrease year over year in room nights and rates from each territory. 

This will give you a first overview over how each market is performing. Put some thought into why each market is performing the way it does. A good, as well as bad performance may be an exception. Misreading a positive performance as a general trend may set you on the wrong path for the year to come. 

Review which market contributes most to your total sales target. Continue to treat your “bread and butter” markets with care, but develop new markets to diversify your portfolio and find new opportunities. 

2. Calculate your average rate by sales territory

Understanding from what market you can achieve highest rates may help you sharpen your focus for the year to come. Selling at higher rates will generate higher profit margins for your hotel and also help you reach your quota faster. One of my previous sales territories included an off-shore market.  We were able to win several Suite-only Board meetings each year, helping us to great RevPar scores on those nights.

3. Determine your lead conversion rate (Number of leads confirmed divided by number of leads received). 

There may be a large number of groups that you turned down from the get go, for reasons such as “Meeting rooms not available” or “Rate too low”. Calculate a second conversion rate in which you exclude these lost reasons and only include the groups for which you had the availability and which you would have liked to welcome. This second measure gives you a better idea of how successful you are at turning an inquiry into solid business.

4. Single out individual, repeat pieces of business that hurt to lose and create a strategy around this client for the year to come.

  • Add specific sales activities in your 2018 activity calendar (more on the activity calendar below!) to strengthen your relationship to this client;
  • Set alerts in your 2018 calendar to check out the meeting as it happens at your competitor hotel and to follow up with your client over coffee right after the meeting occurred. This is the best time to learn about service errors and strengths at your competitor hotel;
  • Write a list of objections that your client had and how to address these in 2018/2019. This will be very valuable information once the RFP is again on your desk and will help you create your proposal strategy;
  • Think about what personality type your client is and reflect on how you could have taken a better sales approach based on this personality. Different characters tend to negotiate differently. Here is a good read on negotiation and personality types. 

5. Look at each lost reason by percentage to understand for what reasons you lose most business (and how this may have changed over the years). 

Let’s say a new hotel opened in your area that offers meeting rooms with natural daylight and you see that the lost reason “no natural daylight” was used 38% of the time and increased from only 18% last year. You should bring this forward to your management team and brainstorm how you can prepare the entire sales team to overcome this objection better. While you probably won’t be able to move walls and create windows, maybe there is an outdoor terrace that you could offer to your group exclusively for a 30-minute morning and afternoon power break? Could the lack of stimulation through natural daylight be offset by free morning yoga sessions for your group?

During my time at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto, we kept on losing wedding business due to the rather loud colours in our Ballroom carpet. By collecting these statistics, our Director of Sales & Marketing was able to convince owners to invest in a new, more modern ballroom carpet only 4 years after hotel opening. Wedding planners loved it and we were able to take amazing new photographs that helped us win more wedding business. 

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Create your sales operating plan 2018

Now that you have assessed your wins and losses of this year, it’s time to look ahead!

Setting your own career goal is a great way to start structuring your operating plan for the year to come. What motivates you? Are you hoping to be promoted? Would you like to ask for a raise or more responsibility as a chance to learn? Next, think about how your 2018 performance can support your goal. Plan for your effective performance through setting business goals. 

A hotel sales professional’s business goals are three-fold:

1. Quota target

This is your annual sales target. Review next years target by quarter and month to see which months seem challenging in comparison to your actual figures of this and possibly last year. 

2. Activity target

To achieve your quota, you will have to initiate activities with your clients. These are the review meetings with your accounts, your sales trips, the conferences you plan to attend, the client entertainments and marketing initiatives (this list is of course not exhaustive). Create an activity calendar month by month - this is where having reviewed the effectiveness of your 2017 activities will come in very handy! 

3. Projects and tasks to complete to achieve the activity and quota targets

Sales trips and effective customer events don’t plan themselves. To ensure that none are canceled or unsuccessful, break your larger activities down into detailed tasks. Plan for writing guest lists, making appointments, creating marketing materials and all the other little tasks that tie into your activities. 

You are now sitting in front of a long list of tasks that may seem overwhelming. To prioritize your tasks, place your activities and related tasks into a 2 by 2 grid, as suggested by Stephen Covey in his successful book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”: 

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We all tend to be very busy with important and urgent tasks and at times get carried away and interrupted in our work flow by urgent, yet not important tasks. Most leverage for success lies in the important, not urgent quadrant. In sales, this quadrant is where you should place prospecting - bumped all too often, reaching out to new customers to expand your market knowledge is an important task. Treat it with the same diligence than an actually scheduled, face to face client appointment. Other tasks that may move the mark for you in the year to come could be reading longer market studies, learning a new skill, or taking a course.

I like to subdivide the quadrants into weekly, monthly and quarterly tasks, which helps me complete the next step of time blocking.

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Time blocking

Almost done! Now that you understand what it is you need to do to achieve your quota, block time for it in your calendar. Make sure you have nice 2-4 hour time slots scheduled for your important and not urgent tasks and of course leave sufficient time for everything that will pop-up and that you now can’t foresee. You will move tasks around in your calendar as the year progresses - look at your activity schedule as a living document with moving parts and ensure to keep it updated. 

Congratulations! You have laid a fantastic foundation for a truly successful 2018! Now enjoy the holiday season and have a terrific start into a healthy and happy new year. Oh, and share this article if you found it useful - thank you!