While the transition to working remotely was certainly hastened by the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift was already underway for the profession of hotel sales.
As brands and management companies moved toward a regional sales model, a significant percentage of hotel group, event and corporate/business transient salespeople were already working off-site. Similarly, with the emergence of professional third-party meeting planners in recent years, the “buyers” have been increasingly doing deals without having even visited for a site tour prior to committing.
Prior to March 2020, the shift of hotel sales from a face-to-face model to digital message exchanges — i.e. Cvent, The Knot, Lanyon, CVB sites — was already happening.
Then almost overnight, the business world embraced online meetings like never before, and thus connecting on Zoom, Teams, Google Meet and GoToMeeting became the norm. On top of that, the general public became more comfortable with video by attending all those Zoom happy hours, Facebook Live weddings and family meet-ups. Now, many if not most B2B sales meetings are happening online.
However, one recent trend that I’ve started to notice is that a lot of hotel salespeople are not flipping on their webcams during sales meetings. It’s not just me either. I’ve circled around to my contacts in the professional meeting planning space, and I’ve asked several family members who recently planned weddings whether their sales contact used a webcam. From what I’m hearing, quite a few salespeople only do screen shares and audio-only presentations.
On a related note, when I’m conducting pre-training planning meetings with hotel leaders from a number of different departments, ranging from hotel operations to revenue managers to sales, I find that less than half activate the video. Since I’m always on video for business meetings, those I meet with always seem to voluntarily mention reasons why they can’t join me. Here are the most common ones:
- “Gosh, my webcam isn’t working today for some reason!”
- “Sorry, this computer doesn’t have a webcam.”
- “I apologize but the connection is slow here so I’m not able to activate the camera.”
Come on people! This is the hospitality business, right? Aren’t we all about making sincere, authentically human connections? If not, I’m pretty sure the chatbots will soon replace most of our jobs, especially in fields such as hotel sales and revenue management, which are already increasingly automated.
Are there really that many laptops being sold these days without webcams? Is the cost of an external webcam, which is about $19.95 from Amazon or Walmart, going to break the budget? Are people really working remotely on a slow, dial-up connections that don’t support a webcam?
I truly think that all hospitality industry conversations between remote workers and on-site staff should be happening on webcam. Having eye contact and sharing smiles creates stronger human connections, plus — at least for me — it helps everyone stay focused on the meeting and not get distracted sliding through social media or multitasking on email.
But at the very least, salespeople should always be meeting with prospects and clients on video, even if the client declines to do so.
Although I prefer to work in my office at KTN headquarters, I sometimes need to work from home, too. I know it takes a little extra effort to be ready for video. But remember, we are already saving time by not having to commute. Perhaps we need to get back to setting our alarm wake-up times early enough to fix hair, shave faces, put on a nice shirt or blouse, flip on the blurred or virtual background, turn on a ring light, and then share our warm and welcoming smiles. After all, you can still wear your shorts and slippers, just be sure not to stand up while on camera!
Doug Kennedy is president of the Kennedy Training Network, Inc. Contact him at email@example.com.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or CoStar Group and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to contact an editor with any questions or concern.
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