Turn Your Inbound Reservations Team Into Sales Hunters!

The reservations teams at most lodging companies are typically focused on responding to inbound inquiries coming in via phone, email, chat, and responding to messages in apps such as AirBnB, VRBO, and Booking.com. In essence, they have an administrative, “order-taking” role.  

However, smart leaders recognize the revenue-generating opportunities presented when guests reach out directly. They have already provided sales training to help agents evolve into being “order-makers.” 

Watch the webinar or continue reading the article below.

 

In previous blogs and webcasts for TrackPulse, we have covered highlights from KTN training workshops that can help “order-makers” close more bookings from today’s pre-informed callers who have already shopped online. We’ve covered the concepts of investigative questioning to discover “the story behind the call”; in other words, to find out what it is the caller has not yet seen online that caused them to call vs. completing their reservation there. We’ve also covered evolving from feature listing and “painting the picture” of the experience to “narrating the pictures” they have already seen. 

As we enter the new decade of the 2020s, it’s once again time to evolve the role of reservations agents into being “sales hunters,” who go and track down new business rather than just reacting to inbound inquiries. 

First, let’s acknowledge that the primary objective when fielding any direct inquiry should always be to secure the sale on the first call. If callers resist, it’s always a good idea to create urgency (“Availability is limited” or “That rate could sell out”) and/or to remove barriers to booking now (“You can always cancel up until…”).  

However, the fact is that there are always going to be those callers who are simply not yet ready to commit. This is especially true at resorts and vacation rental companies where guests are:

  • Traveling with large parties and thus coordinating plans and sharing the costs.
  • Needing to book airfare first.
  • Waiting until vacation time is approved or the kids’ school and activity schedules are checked.
  • Emotionally engaged in their decision and simply hesitant to commit on the spot.

At most lodging companies, the sales process ends here with a fond farewell statement to end the call, but that’s where the new role of “sales hunters” begins! 

Now, I kindly ask readers who are already customers of TRACKPulse to bear with me, as I explain briefly the system required for turning inbound calls into leads. Their system automatically generates a pop-up window when calls come in, allowing agents to fill out lead forms for new inquiries and to redisplay details for repeat callers and previous guests, and then to trace the lead on their task list for follow-up. 

If you’re not yet a TrackPulse client, you can schedule a demo by visiting www.trackhs.com.  Otherwise, as a starting place, you can have your team test out the potential ROI (and later get funding approved for TrackPulse) by creating a manual tracking system in Excel, Google Sheets or a log-book. After entering the caller’s name and email, make note of what you’ve learned about the caller’s plans such as if it is a special occasion and other preferences. 

As soon as possible after the call is complete, send your first pro-active, personalized follow-up message. It is perfectly fine to use an email template, but in the first few sentences of the email, recap what you learned from the conversation. Here’s an example:

“Hello Douglas.  It was wonderful meeting you by phone today!  How excited to hear about your plans to surprise your wife with this vacation, now that your kids are all off to college! 

From here on, it’s fine to use the template, but this one or two sentence start humanizes the correspondence. 

If appropriate, also add a few short remarks to recommend, suggest and/or endorse: 

  • Your destination as a good vacation experience. 
  • The amenities, services, activities, and outlets.
  • The accommodations offered.

To really stand out, include in a few “local insider’s tips” in your follow-up email, such as links to unique area services, attractions and/or events that are relevant to their travel plans.

After sending the first follow-up email as soon as possible after the first call, use TrackPulse (or your manual tracking system) to remind you to follow-up on the lead. Here are a few best practices:

  • A good best practice is to follow-up at least three times total, approximately every three days unless they say otherwise such as “I’ll be seeing my family at the end of this month.” 
  • Follow-up more frequently than the three times if they are responding positively. 
  • Use an alternating combination of phone calls and emails.

When making phone calls, you will often only get voicemail, but do not hang up! This is a terrific opportunity to leave a “30 second commercial.” Use your call notes to reference something personal about their plans and therefore encouraging a call-back. 

If you get a live person, immediately introduce yourself, state your company name and remind them of the previous inquiry as people often might need prompting.  Do not start by asking “Is this Mr. Kennedy?”, as people can be very suspicious of fraudulent calls these days, and to not start with small talk until you have introduced yourself as stated above.

For your third, and typically final follow-up (again, unless they are responding), forward the original note, adding a very brief additional sentence or two at the start of the new email.  Never, ever throw guilt at your prospects! Do not say: “Since you didn’t reply…” or “Since you didn’t call me back…” Instead say, “Just following up on my previous correspondence below…” 

Written by Doug Kennedy

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