A ballroom that was booked because of an effective hotel sales strategy

5 Hotel Sales Strategies to Book More Group Business

There’s more and more demand for group business at hotels. To capitalize on this huge opportunity, your hotel sales strategy may need an overhaul.

But if you want to develop a cohesive sales strategy for groups and meetings, you need to consider many complex factors. In this post, we’ll dive into the nuances of selling group space in your hotel. We’ll lay out five focus areas for hotels to grow group sales:

  1. Understand hotel industry trends
  2. Improving group distribution
  3. Refining lead management strategies
  4. Responding with strong event proposals
  5. Getting more out of group F&B

1. Understand hotel industry trends driving group business.

Meetings are getting bigger — 22.7% bigger, according to the AMEX Global Meetings Forecast. But the number of meetings isn’t growing as fast (only 5.4% over the same period).

And here’s the kicker: A tiny percentage of meetings that require 500+ rooms make up nearly 40% of all hotel group revenue.

The point? The number of opportunities is stagnant, and the big fish are the ones worth catching. That means there’s a more competitive climate to group sales.

Today, landing meetings requires a more innovative approach to hotel sales and marketing. Turning them into repeat business, however, is all about building mutually beneficial relationships with planners. A great sales strategy incorporates both.

High commissions and group acquisition costs are taking a toll on chains.

When you consider all the costs, large hotels shell out 15-25% of guest-paid revenue to acquire new business. By 2022, this number could be 20-30%. This becomes an issue for larger chains, which usually offer ample meeting space and look to group business as a key revenue driver.

acquisition costs by hotel property size

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2. Optimize hotel sales and marketing with better distribution.

Your group bookings are more successful when you acquire them in a cost-effective way. These days, the industry trend is direct booking channels. Top hotels have created channels where planners can book event spaces directly.

This move makes sense for properties and chains of all sizes because:

  • Hotels can connect directly with planners.
  • Hotels are able to build up a network of planners and improve repeat business.
  • Over 50% of planners now do their venue research online.

List your property on venue marketplaces for more visibility.

More than half of event planners say the web is their primary source for sourcing venues. That means it’s high time for hotels to meet planners where they are.

A venue search engine can increase a hotel’s visibility to planners, while sidestepping OTA fees, and in some cases, reducing sourcing fees.

Platforms like Meetingsbooker.com, Cvent, and Social Tables Search let venues and hotels create a profile like the one below. Planners can search for venues and send RFPs.

Your Property's Listing on Social Tables

What to Include in Your Venue Listing

  1. Accurate floor plans. If the platform lets you add a floorplan, you should. Planners find them to be immensely helpful.
  2. Quality photos. Photos that show the possibilities in your space. Include images of past events to help planners visualize their event at your hotel.
  3. Video. In our survey of planners, 40% said that a video is the most helpful way to visualize a space.
  4. Differentiating details. What elements set your space apart? And more importantly, how can your space meet the unique objectives of various meeting types?
  5. Use testimonials. Show off the success of past events to prove that future events can run smoothing in your hotel.

Partner with CVBs.

Convention and Visitors Bureaus (CVBs) are local non-profits that are typically funded by a portion of hotel room occupancy taxes. CVBs recommend hotels and venues to planners based on the specific needs of the event. That means that RFPs from CVBs are generally more qualified than leads. Best of all, these leads come at no cost to the property.

Still, when working with CVBs, it’s your responsibility to educate them about the benefits of your hotel. Good CVBs are in tune with their local economies, and hotels can leverage this to build relationships with other vendors and industry pros.

3. Improve hotel lead management.

Today, planners can submit RFPs with just a few clicks. In just five years, the industry has seen a 300% increase in RFP leads from planners.

With growing demand and more RFPs, properties could be swimming in a sea of never-ending RFPs. And because 75% of proposals are won by the first five properties to respond, you need to manage those leads well.

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As a result, hotels that want to succeed in their group sales have to optimize their RFP management in three main areas.

Speed up RFP response.

Technology may be creating the problem, but it’s also solving it. These days, response times to RFPs have dropped from 2+ weeks to under 24 hours. A 24-hour turnaround has becoming the new standard at some leading hotels and chains.

In large part, this is because of automatic lead scoring and RFP response templates. These tools drastically cut down on the work it takes to respond.

A quick response not only gets a proposal in front of planners before competitors, but it also communicates that your hotel prioritizes their business and communicates efficiently. After all, there’s no second chance at a first impression.

Fine tune your lead scoring.

The more leads you have, the more important it is to pinpoint the most promising inquiries. Even with an influx of RFPs, opportunity is lost without a smart lead scoring system in place.

To make it happen, take a second look at your internal processes. Technology is again playing a huge role, with new systems that automatically score leads as they come in.

Lead management software from Social Tables

These tools can work well if you set smart parameters. Today hotel CRMs need detailed RFP management frameworks to score incoming leads. That means you need to develop the strategy to weed out leads and highlight the best opportunities.

Segment your group business.

No hotel can be everything to every customer. Hotels and chains have to be realistic about what they can do well. Just as importantly, they need to pinpoint the right customers to target with those offerings.

Give your hotel sales strategy a more targeted approach. Identify the broad groups you want to attract (say, weddings). Then, divide those groups into segments (perhaps traditional weddings, or weddings of a particular size).

Different groups have different needs, different acquisition costs, different timelines, and different profitability. You need to market and sell to them accordingly for more effective hotel sales.

Group Segmentation Workbook

4. Improve your RFP responses with better proposals.

Timely and targeted RFP responses are one thing. But not matter how fast and personalize your response is, you need to put together an effective event proposal.

These days, group proposals are more than just a bidding war. In your proposal, you need to show how your hotel can add value. The way you communicate your value matters, because 37% of planners say bad communication is the number one reason they choose another venue.

Show, don’t tell.

When planners can visualize the space, they can imagine their event in the hotel — and they have a vision of their event long before they ever send an RFP.

To show your space, turn to event diagramming technology. Tools like these allow hotels to map out each piece of the event to scale — down to where the mics will be placed. Hotels can create templates of their event spaces and easily update them based on the specifics of the event in question. This way, sales reps can prove the venue will work, demonstrate different layouts, and communicate upsells visually.

Use past events to prove events will be successful.

A large part of the group sales process is providing peace of mind to prospects. They’re wondering how they’ll get hundreds of people from one room to the next, whether the space will be too tight, and if their vendors will be able to set up easily (to name a few).

A customized site visit helps, but that’s one of the last steps. Earlier on in the sales process, you can show prospects a similar event — which should be easy with the right technology. A cloud-based event management solution makes it easy to pull a past diagram and use it as proof of concept.

Photo Realistic 3d image of round tables

Tap into the event’s purpose and objectives.

80% of event planners today say that their jobs involve more experience creation than it did five years ago. That’s a result of attendee expectations that are shaping the meetings industry. Today, attendees want meetings to have more meaning, innovation, insight, and personalization.

With the new emphasis on purpose, properties need to show they can contribute to that goal. Every piece of the proposal should fit in with what an event is trying to achieve on a deeper level. That can’t happen unless hotels ask planners at the very beginning of the process. (Planners, take this as a promising sign!)

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5. Make hotel F&B a bigger part of your group sales strategy.

Location and price are the two biggest determining factors in site selection. But the third-ranking answer might come as a surprise:  In a recent IACC survey of event planners, it was hotel F&B.

That means when planners have multiple venues at the right price and location, they look to food & beverage as a differentiator.

Especially for higher-tier hotels, F&B sales are a significant revenue driver. In 2017, catering and banquet revenue made up:

  • 57% of F&B revenue at luxury hotels
  • 59% of F&B revenue at upper-upscale properties
  • 58% of F&B revenue at upscale hotels

In the modern world of meetings, the right hotel F&B ideas can make all the difference in year-over-year growth.

Grow F&B efficiency through event management technology.

Event management technologies are having a big impact on F&B. According to a recent STR study, the right platform can make a 1.82% difference in F&B profit for properties when measured on a RevPOR basis.

What’s your group sales strategy?

Hotels are committed to group business, and with that commitment comes the need to invest in tactics, tools, properties, and most importantly, partnerships. The demand is there, and by establishing trust and adding value, the revenue will follow. We hope the hotel sales strategies we’ve laid out above give hotels a helping hand in creating their most fruitful year of face-to-face events.

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What’s your group sales strategy for the year ahead? Download our free ebook for 30 pages of compelling stats, case studies, and actionable insights that can help you optimize. And don’t forget to check out Social Tables Sales Enablement Software!

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