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Generating Leads: Is it Really Luck, or is it Skill?

lucky shamrocks
The month of March contains one of my favourite celebrations – St. Patrick’s Day!  And what are the Irish famous for?  Luck of course!  When it comes to what we are doing for a living here at GREENfield, we believe it’s not so much luck as it is skill and preparation.

Sure - - it is highly probable that some of your prospecting calls generate leads because “you were at the right place at the right time”.  However, there are many other factors involved.  I thought I would share what I consider some necessary steps in generating a G.R.E.A.T. Lead.

Get ready – do your research.  In the meetings industry, it can go a long way to solidifying the relationship going forward when you have put in the time in advance (i.e. I was on your website and saw that your last annual meeting was in Vancouver – how did that event go?)

React.  Be in the moment – listen to what the contact is saying and be ready to respond.  Tune in to their personalities so that the conversation is as productive as possible (i.e. If they are the type of person who provides – although informative – short and sweet answers, don’t drone on for 20 minutes before you actually include them in the conversation).

Earn respect (and give it).  You may not be talking to the decision-maker on the first call.  The influencer or “gatekeeper” to the decision-maker is just as important to have conversations with in the beginning, as well as throughout the process.  Asking for their input and assistance may be the difference to getting the introduction to the decision-maker in the first place.

Address Objections.  One of our Sales Trainers, Colleen Francis, has taught us the following model: Stop – Acknowledge – Ask.  You may uncover that the reason for the objection is not as big as they think, and you may get the business anyway.  Stop and hear the objection – Acknowledge that you heard what they are saying – Ask questions to clarify.  It gets them talking.  It doesn’t work every time, but it shows you respect their position.

Take the time – secure commitment, send the information, thank them for their valuable time and trace the follow-up.  Make sure that you trace it for when they want to hear from you.
Other than that – remember that confidence is probably the most important thing of all.  Believe that you have the right to ask for the information, because if you waver, it gives them an 'out'.
Ádh mór ort! (That's how they say "good luck" in Ireland!)

Hotel Marketing : Why I Feel Sorry for Chain Hotels

collection of chain hotel logos
Why would anyone feel sorry for chain hotels?  Aren’t branded hotels the ones with all of the fancy programs and the big advertising budgets?  Wouldn’t chain-affiliated hotels have clout that independent's can’t compete with?

Yes, to a certain extent, they do.  But the chain advantage is eroding.  The internet has leveled the playing field with independents.

According to a June 2010 DemandGen Report, 78% of B2B buyers check out potential suppliers online before they pick up the phone.  This might be on the supplier’s website, through third-party sites or even social media.  And increasingly buyers are looking for brands with personality and unique appeal.  This is where chain hotels are increasingly at a disadvantage.

(Note: the names of specific brands have been omitted to protect the innocent and perhaps the not-so-innocent…).

Chain hotels rarely can have custom content on their website.  It doesn’t matter which brand you look at.  Hotels must fit the corporate mold, filling in the blanks so that information is presented on the corporate website in a uniform manner.

  • If individual properties offer unique programs, anything that would differentiate hotel A from hotel B, it is rarely available on the branded hotel’s page.  A meeting planner has to call a hotel to get that information emailed to them.
Case in point: I was visiting a wonderful Chicago hotel last November, and the sales manager who walked me through the site inspection had great knowledge of their hotel’s unique banquet production and cooking system.  She gave me excellent examples of how this gives them a competitive edge in their local catering market.  Is there any mention of this on their website?  No!  Unfortunately, the hotel has no flexibility to include this anywhere on their corporate-sanctioned website.
  • If any chain hotel has a blog (a rarity), they are not allowed to connect it to their hotel page. 
  • Many chain hotels, regardless of brand, are told social media is the purview of corporate headquarters.  If a hotel has a Twitter account it is often used strictly for leisure purposes (e.g. “come check out our weekend rates”).  Heck, I’ve even heard of corporate HQ types trying to “control the messaging” of some of their “field” Tweeters by issuing “guidelines”.  Did these corporate types not hear what happened in Egypt and Libya?  Contrast that with independents who have real personalities and even know how to have fun (check out the Drake Hotel on Twitter and The Lord Elgin’s bed-jumping video on YouTube).  
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often entirely leisure-driven because it is controlled by corporate HQ marketing types whose job is only leisure and image focused.  Intelligent B2B marketing, with rich content generation that can generate leads, is rarely on their radar screen.
  • Because they operate with clunky legacy systems like Delphi and Opera SFA, most hotel companies cannot run efficient lead nurturing campaigns with marketing automation tools that connect with their website interface and their CRM or PMS. 
We often hear hotels complain about the pressure on their rates and how the market is so competitive.  And unless they can differentiate their local flair and offer proof that they can be more than cookie-cutter buildings, chain hotels are doomed to suffer the highs – and lows – of the commodities they are becoming in the eyes of meeting planners everywhere.

Would love to hear from the hospitality sales & marketing pros out there!

Hearing No Objections while Prospecting?

An objection
My job here at Greenfield involves getting our team ready for lead generation projects for hotel, CVB and other meetings industry clients. Recently while speaking with a Sales Manager for a destination, I asked her what some of the standard/typical objections were that she faced when she made her prospecting calls.

To my surprise she answered, “I don’t get objections – there are none”.  I was so stunned I didn't know how to respond (and for those who know me, this should surprise you).

I was surprised because objections are such a natural evolution of the prospecting process.  To not encounter any is unimaginable to me. Maybe in this case, the Sales Manager did not want to look weak or unprepared for the question I posed in front of our team.  I do believe though that this is an old-fashioned way of thinking – and it will make prospects hang up the phone.

When I asked the same question of another destination rep he said, “The biggest object we hear is the driving time from the closest airport to our destination.”  And when asked how they handle this, the response was, “By informing the contact that the highway has been extended, and comparing it to a drive in their local region – i.e. it may be a 90-minute drive to our destination from the airport, but that time is similar to rush-hour traffic in Toronto from many outlying areas.”  For our team, this was a GREAT start to come up with talking points in order to effectively address the objection!

While no one will ever be able to get around every objection, being prepared for them is a critical element for success when prospecting.

Remember:  Listen to what they are saying (and not saying).  And, as Colleen Francis, one of our Sales Trainers, always says: STOP.  ACKNOWLEDGE.  ASK.  Hear them out, acknowledge what you heard, and ask another question to further clarify – it will help you get around the objection, and may ultimately give you what you want – new business.