Right Way Wrong Way

When the Right Thing is Also the Wrong Thing in Sales

Sometimes doing the right things is not successful in the sales arena.  I equate this phrase with the common misconception that ‘maybe the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing’.  

I recently read an article by one of my favorite sales bloggers (Jill Konrath) entitled 7 Paradoxical Sales Principles.  Jill is an author, speaker, and sales strategist and often publishes sales techniques for all genres of sales.  I often turn to her column to further my own sales education.  This article, has a couple of interesting ideas and I will give you my observations on each topic.  You be the judge as to what might be right for your sales technique and which you may want to incorporate into your own agenda:

1. To win more sales - stop selling.

“When people feel like they’re being sold, they react negatively and erect barriers. Focus on helping your prospects achieve their business, professional, and personal objectives—not making a sale.”

I agree with this paradoxical sales principle.

Think about a sales situation when you may have been overwhelmed by the person doing the selling.  It is uncomfortable and this hard-hitting approach is the polar opposite to the core tenets of the hospitality industry.  Leave the ‘in-you-face’ selling techniques to the disingenuous and make sure that you are focused on “helping your prospects achieve their business, professional, and personal objectives”.  This kinder, gentler approach does not need to be less focused – it just needs to be genuine.  Keeping the doors and windows of communication open with your customer will ensure that they don’t go looking for another hotel to host their travelers, meeting, or event.

2. To speed up your sales cycle - slow down.

“The more quickly you push to a close, the higher resistance you encounter. Go one step at a time. When your prospects know you want to help them make the right decision, not a rash one, the process moves faster.”

I agree with this paradoxical sales principle.

Fast-talking, snake-oil sales people put people off.  Remember when you walked in to the car dealer and the sales person was trying to rush you into “a deal”?  A sincere, methodical, and sensible sales approach means that you take one step at a time and move on to the next point when you have buy-in.  This doesn’t mean that your presentation shouldn’t start with an overview, it means that your presentation shouldn’t be one-note or over-bearing.  Don’t hide behind caveats in the contract – put them up front and make sure the customer understands the whys of what you can deliver.  Pushing a deal too hard and too fast is off-putting and might make a client wonder ‘why are you moving so quickly – what are you trying to hide?’  

3. To make decisions easier - offer fewer options.

“When you increase the complexity of the decision, you decrease the likelihood of winning the sale. To help your prospects move forward, give them less to choose from. Keep it simple—always.”

I both agree and disagree with this paradoxical sales principle.

Sometimes the deal is complex – and our job is to make the decision making process less complex.  Make sure you understand your contract and can explain each paragraph, phrase, and premise.  If a customer asks you to explain your booking rules, attrition policy, or to explain your COVID cancellation policy, you must be able to do so on the spot.  When it comes to choices – I do agree that you always need to give at least 2 options (i.e. Our king bed rooms are $129 and our 2 Queen beds rooms are $139 – which would work best for your travelers?). However, sometimes adding a third option will help you achieve a higher rate of return.  In the scenario above – if you added an upgraded room to the mix – all of a sudden the middle priced room option becomes attractive (i.e. For just a few dollars more, we could include our King bed suites for $159.  Guests might enjoy the ability to spread out and have separate spaces for relaxing/working and sleeping.). Again, follow the KISS principle when writing or verbalizing your sales pitch.  

4. To be more natural - prepare like crazy.

“Today’s buyers suffer no fools. If you’re not ready with the right message, questions or presentation, you’ll stumble or be stilted in your meeting. When you do prepare, you can be your best self.”

I totally agree with this paradoxical sales principle.  It might be my favorite.

Anyone who knows me will attest that one of my biggest sales tips is to follow the 3-4-5-6-7-8-or any number of the P’s of Selling.  No matter how many P’s you incorporate into your process – PREPARATION is the most important and always number one!    1.  You must have your act together and a PITCH that is easy to communicate.  2.  You must have a PLAN that you can execute flawlessly.  3.  You must understand the PROCESS and be able to give confidence to your client that it will be deliverable.  4.  It’s all about the PRODUCTION – make sure that the business you are targeting works for your hotel when you want it and when you need it.  5.  Be able to PERFORM the sales process.  Nothing turns off a potential client than an ill-prepared sales person.  Knowing your business is one thing – knowing their business is the icing on the cake. 

Other P’s worth knowing and mastering are:  Prospecting, Presentation, Product, Price, Promotion, Place, People, Passion, Pride, Perseverance, Ploy, AND Perspective….. don’t give up…. DON’T POOP OUT! 

5. To get bigger contracts - start smaller.

“When you pursue the “whole shebang,” decisions are more complex and costly, making it much tougher to get approval. Reduce the risk by starting small and proving your capabilities. Then, it’s easy to grow.”

I totally agree with this paradoxical sales principle.

Bigger isn’t always better.  It is tempting to only search out businesses that comes in big boxes because the perceived rate of return is so rewarding.  But good things come in small packages too.  If everyone in your comp set is going after the same “big business” you run the risk of being the odd man out and either not getting the business or having to fall back on price.  Mix big business with little business; mix global accounts with local accounts; mix corporate with SMERFE accounts… establish a weighed plan of attack.  Our hotels perform at their best when we have a good mix of segmentation.  Hotels will rarely sell out at RACK rate so a good business mix is healthy for your bottom line.  It also offers hotels the opportunity to work with a variety of customer bases.  Remember – all business genres do not perform at the same rate – some businesses thrive when some are struggling.  This has never been so evident as our current world of pandemic-related travel.  Those hotels who have thrown all their eggs in one ‘medical basket’ might have been initially rewarded but are now struggling to reach back to customers who might have been ignored over the months.  Couple that with booking very large accounts with the risk of “if they cancel they will leave a crater of empty rooms that you might not be able to fill”.

This sales principle applies to the skill set of the sales person as well.  If you are a newer sales person who is still ‘feeling their way around the sales presentation and closing process, smaller companies offer you the opportunity to hone your skills.  When you deal with Mom and Pop businesses, there is typically a more friendly sales environment.  Small businesses are comfortable and oftentimes more forgiving than high powered boardroom accounts.  Sales people need to be confident in all sales environments, but learning from someone who might be willing to mentor you through the maze of negotiations is priceless.

Never stop learning.  There is no right or wrong when it comes to gaining more knowledge.
6. To speed up your learning curve - fail fast.

“It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes. So don’t wait till you’ve figured out the “perfect pitch” before moving forward. In sales, there is no failure—just lots of opportunities for experimentation, learning and growth.”

I both agree and disagree with this paradoxical sales principle.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes; however, you must always learn from those mistakes and not make them again.  Sales is a game of chances and there are few guarantees.  Just make sure you are honest and don’t sell your customers what cannot be delivered.  Don’t be afraid to ask your client what their expectations are and what it would take to win their business.  I have often said that sales is more about relationships than skill.  “People buy from people they know and like.”  Are you confident and likable?  Are you honest and do not over-sell?  Don’t be the sales person who says one thing and then asks for forgiveness later.  If you do this, your reputation and your hotel’s reputation might soon be at risk.

7. To differentiate your offering - become the differentiator.

“That’s the biggest reality in today’s market. Your products, services or solution are secondary to your knowledge, expertise and the difference you make for your customers. Invest time in yourself.”

I totally agree with this paradoxical sales principle.

From day one in your sales journey I have encouraged you to never stop learning.  They day you do stop, or think that you know everything, is the day you will be lapped by someone else.  Every day you must strive to be just a bit better than the day before.  Keep reading, keep learning, and keep honing your craft.  Find a mentor, a book, a website, or an expert that you aspire to emulate and keep searching for tips and tactics to make you a better person and associate.  Better yet – pick a few sources and choose the best of them to create the best of you.

Happy searching for the right principles,


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