The retail industry has embarked on decades of change a while ago. Brick and mortar businesses that embrace this change invest in their online platforms while making a visit to their stores an experience that engages the visitor with the brand.
The new Galeries Lafayette on the Champs Élysée in Paris is a wonderful example of this. A gorgeous restaurant concept, an upmarket food court, art installations, merchandise organized by concept, rather than category, smart technology hangers and IT savvy stylists that consult you on the floor are all part of an experience that compliments the online function and turns a visit to the store into a day-trip worthy experience.
POE, “Point of Experience” has replaced the term POS, “Point of sale”.
In hospitality, we too have been very busy curating local and authentic experiences. Hotel loyalty programs allow you to book a look behind the scenes at opera houses, personal tours of hidden wine cellars or private drives along F1 race tracks. The customer experience is crucial in the hotel industry, after all, it only takes one bad experience for 25% of customers to leave to competitors! These experiences are mostly created and executed by the Rooms department.
But how do we, in Sales, move from the Point of Sale to the Point of Experience?
Here’s how I imagine this:
The skill differentiator
If I was a meeting planner and would start working with a sales manager who knows what information I need to write my risk analysis for the conference, I would be truly impressed. If that sales manager is better informed than me on what new technology is out there for me to promote or run that conference, he or she would not only be successfully managing the sales process, but would become a very valuable contribution to the overall conference experience (and a definite reason why I would return to this hotel or talk it up in front of my planner friends!).
It is the exceptional skill set of a sales manager turns the “Point of Sale” into a joint collaboration. A thoroughly trained sales manager consults the client, rather than takes him through a scripted sales process. 89% of marketers expect the customer experience to be the main differentiator and that experience starts with the sales process.
Personally, I got certified in meeting planning when working as a sales manager and I wish I had done this much earlier in my career. Being a CMP instantly elevated the sales conversation I had with buyers. This more detailed, more in depth exchange let me gain information that my competitors were possibly not aware of. Better information leads in turn to “solutions” rather than “proposals” and puts you one step ahead.
I recently had a chat with a junior sales person, who told me a bit about the sales script that she was provided with when joining her company. A young, educated woman herself she feels awkward following a script. This conversation really did make me wonder whether the sales material most companies train is addressing the right skills needed to provide that Point of Experience that sets an organization apart? While scripts can be useful for some, sales training should always focus on skills that allow you to react spontaneously, naturally and confidently in any sales situation.
The creativity differentiator
When speaking to clients of sales departments, you understand very quickly that they yearn for new offerings. An event planner that manages 30 weddings a year in the same city would love to be able to offer the next wedding party something new. Think of the many hotel proposals that your client receives throughout the year. How does your proposal fare among these?
One great sales person that I have worked with in the past is Patrick Smith at Leading Hotels of the World. He adopted Facebook a long time ago as a way to connect and stay in touch with his clients and kept this gorgeous travel blog that showcased his portfolio of beautiful, independent luxury hotels. Why was I impressed by this? The technology was not new when we first met in 2012, but the way Patrick used it had something entrepreneurial about it. These photos were not taken professionally, nor nodded off by the Head of Marketing. They were often spontaneous shots, real photos taken on his many sales trips around the world with his phone. LHW and its hotels allowing Patrick to take photos and publishing them to his clients without the consent of each hotel removed unnecessary red tape and created original, interesting content for his clients. This content told stories and made you wish you were lying on that beach, eating in this restaurant, or enjoying that view. The proposal, I am sure, was often a mere means to formalize the sale.
As hoteliers, we have gorgeous spaces to fill, beautiful restaurants to work with and marble bathrooms as a platform to draw in our guest. A hotel provides touch points with art, culture, culinary lifestyle, wellness, interior design and the local community, to name a few. We need to look at each space available in our hotel and ask ourselves what this space could be used for by a meeting client. Can it be transformed into something else? Can an activity be done here? You are unlikely to find answers all on your own, but make it a team discussion and I am sure you will come up with new concepts that will set your proposal apart and help create that Point of Experience.
I’d love to hear your thoughts - leave me a comment!