Hawaii. Just the sound of that word brings images of warm tropical breezes, cold Mai Tai’s, and sparkling white sands. Can you think of a better place to host a company sales conference? Neither could I.
So off I went to check out hotels and see which would rate highest on my scorecard and be the best one for the conference. If you’ve ever been to Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach, you know that the Hawaii sold to us mainlanders is not quite the Hawaii we experience when we land. Hotels are lined up chock-a-block as close to the beach as they can get, each striving for vacationers, or better yet, expense account laden business people. Still, leave cold and rainy Seattle for a conference in warm and sunny Hawaii? Count me in!
It was important to make the right choice, as this was an international conference that would bring in hundreds of people from around the world. I set up meetings with eight different large hotels, spending about 4 hours with each of them. When it came time to write up my recommendations, my first choice received more page space than the other seven combined. The decision was incredibly obvious to me, and the other hotels never had a chance. It was the easiest slam dunk I’ve ever seen.
How could this happen? Was the chosen hotel cheaper? Did it have a better location? Was I offered a bunch of hotel points for choosing them? No, no, and no. We never talked price. All the competitor’s locations were great. And nobody offered me any incentives to pad my hotel points account.
In the cutthroat, commodity world of Waikiki, where hotels tend to be more alike than different, and the quantity of Japanese tourist package tours makes or breaks their balance sheets, one hotel stood out. In fact, while I don’t want to come off as a shill, they were so amazing that I will name them here: The Sheraton Waikiki Hotel. What was it that made them stand out so much?
Now, I have a weak spot for watching the inner workings of a well-oiled machine, but all I was expecting from my hotel tours was a look at the grand ballroom, a few meeting rooms, a look at the catering menu, and a quick view of a typical hotel room. What did I get instead? It started with a breakfast meeting. Not at one of the hotel’s restaurants, but on the balcony of one of the VIP rooms, overlooking the ocean. Somehow, the hotel’s salesperson had found out what I like to eat for breakfast and had it all waiting for me. Not only that, she had the GM of the hotel there as well, and we dined together while they gave me the history of the hotel, informing me about other events they had hosted for similar audiences, and what they could do to help create the perfect conference. Next came the hotel tour I was expecting, but as we went in each area to look, there was another senior level hotel person waiting to greet me.
Throughout the tour, I met the head of catering, the head of activities and events, the head chef, and other people who would be crucial in making sure that the conference came off flawlessly. Everything was timed perfectly, with the hotel staff showing their professionalism in every way (being in the room waiting for me, not called to meet with me once I arrived in that room). When it was time to leave and go to my next meeting, the salesperson brought her car to the front of the hotel and gave me a ride to her competitor’s hotel. Wow…I wanted to hire her to come work for my own company.
What were the other hotels like? Exactly what I had originally expected. “This is the auditorium, these are the meeting rooms, this is a typical guest room, and here is a catering menu.” Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up,” and that is precisely what these other hotels did. Even though all the hotels were essentially offering approximately the same product, none of them came close to making the impression that the Sheraton did. Without me realizing it at first, the hotel’s salesperson had “set the table” so well that she created her own scorecard that was so compelling that nobody else could possibly measure up against it.
The best scorecard is the one that you create.
However, I was not the decision maker, just the guy who made the initial survey and passed on recommendations. So meetings were set up, and the people who would make the final decision met with all the hotels. Well, not all eight hotels. In fact, they only met with one. The woman who would make the final decision went to the Sheraton Waikiki first and was so amazed at their demonstrated professionalism that she cancelled all the other hotel meetings I had set up for her. A contract was signed by my company, one that usually counted every penny, and this happened without seeing other properties and no price comparison with the other seven hotels. Not even a courtesy price check.
Do you think the Sheraton’s salesperson had to come down hard with a heavy-handed Zig Ziglar close? No, she and her well-orchestrated team showed that they could make sure the lodging, meeting rooms, entertainment, and banquets would be well taken care of so that their customer could concentrate on having a great conference.
Do you see any parallels in your industry? Are there things about your product or company that you can’t change (location, competitors, local market, old technology, bad economy), or are you dealing with a product or service that has become a commodity? You may not be able to control those factors, but you can control how you and your team demonstrate your professionalism.
“But I can’t do this for every client” you might say, thinking that this kind of over-the-top service display would be a real issue based on your 20% closing ratio. You are right, you can’t do this for every unqualified prospect you uncover. However, if you qualify your prospects properly utilizing the methods outlined in Client Centric Sales, and combine that process with the attention to detail that the Sheraton showed, I’m betting you will double or triple your closing ratio. You can afford this kind of effort with that kind of success rate. In fact, the best way to double or triple your closing ratio is to follow this process.
Give it a try. And when you get that next commission check, remember that life is short – maybe now is a good time to visit Hawaii. I know where I’ll be staying…