Kristi White
Jun 10, 2023

What’s Today’s Excuse? By Kristi White

THE WORLD HAS (MOSTLY) RETURNED TO NORMAL. Hotels are at or near 2019 occupancy levels and average daily rate (ADR) is well ahead of 2019 levels. Owners are turning a profit again and even with a potential recession on the horizon, things look good. You could almost say it’s business as usual. But here’s the pressing question of the day: Is that a good thing?

What’s Today’s Excuse? By Kristi White

Kristi White
Jun 10, 2023
Revenue Strategy

THE WORLD HAS (MOSTLY) RETURNED TO NORMAL. Hotels are at or near 2019 occupancy levels and average daily rate (ADR) is well ahead of 2019 levels. Owners are turning a profit again and even with a potential recession on the horizon, things look good. You could almost say it’s business as usual. But here’s the pressing question of the day: Is that a good thing?

During the last three years we all got a pass for not staying in our lanes. Every hotel in the world was short-staffed, which meant everyone was doing ALL the jobs. Even with things (more or less) back to normal, people are still doing ALL the jobs. Some of this is due to continued short staffing (which is a whole different article) but some of it is due to excuses – all the excuses that keep sellers from selling.

It would be easy to assume this is a recent issue resulting from the pandemic. However, if we hop into our time machine, this problem existed long before. In fact, there have always been excuses for those who are uncomfortable selling. Some were created by existing business needs and the way salespeople were incentivized; others are tied to a lack of initiative. But mostly, they result from excuses and a lack of commitment to ongoing training.

Let’s unpack some of those excuses and examine why they didn’t make sense then and make even less sense now.

Too Many RFPs

This is a multipurpose excuse. It accounts for time spent (not selling) and often it filled the pipeline, so the seller looked busy. If the hotel was making its budget, RFPs had the added bonus of making the seller look good.

Even before the pandemic, ownership placed a premium on RFP responses. We set goals around the speed of response (typically 2-4 hours). This created a sense of urgency that gave credence to the excuse. In other words, it was a ready-made excuse not to sell. And let’s be clear, completing an RFP isn’t selling, it’s acting as an order-taker and it creates a need to compete solely on price.

Operations Needs Us

Prior to the pandemic, this was less of an excuse (although it was still used). However, the pandemic and the staffing issues it caused brought this excuse to the forefront. Everyone had to do what was necessary to keep the doors open, whether it was answering the phones or checking in guests.

As things stabilized and staffing returned to normal, it was easy to use this excuse. No one really questioned it, which made it the perfect scapegoat for why someone wasn’t selling.

The Sky Is Purple

OK, this one isn’t really an excuse anyone has ever uttered (at least I hope not). It’s really the catch all for the 900 other excuses sellers use not to do the hard work of selling. And let’s be clear, it is hard work. It may not be rocket science, but it is hard work.

Hard Work Brings Good Luck

Selling requires an almost maniacal focus. It’s not just about filling out RFPs, making a few calls, or sending a few emails. It requires research, understanding of the customer, timing, and sometimes good luck.

However, luck won’t come if you don’t put in the work. So, let’s break down the questions you should be asking your sellers.

1. Are you doing the research?

Each seller should be able to supply a detailed plan for how they research new accounts. They should be able to point to the tools they’re using to find companies, how they research them, and then how they build a plan of attack to have a conversation with them. Additionally, they should be regularly updating their plans with new accounts and removing accounts that didn’t pan out.

2. Are you planning calls?

Every account probably has two to three contacts that book business. Each of those individuals has unique needs. Taking a “one size fits all approach” won’t work. Planning allows the seller to create personalized approaches which will create a greater chance of success.

3. Are you doing enough prospecting?

There are multiple tools (free on the internet) to measure how many calls they need to make to achieve their goals. Chances are the number isn’t as high as they think it is. But, if they don’t know what they should be doing, they won’t know if they’re doing enough.

4. Are you making the actual prospecting calls?

Knowing and doing are two separate things. Sales is about the effort. All effort should be logically tracked within the sales and catering system. It’s also important to have a multipronged approach to outreach. Some customers may not answer a phone call but will respond instantly to an email. It’s vital for sellers to have approaches to cover all the bases.

5. Are you tracking conversion rates effectively?

Monitoring the lifecycle of calls is critical. A seller might be great at making the calls but can’t get appointments. Or they excel at setting appointments but can’t seem to get to a proposal. Even worse, they send lots of proposals but can’t seem to close. Understanding where the breakdown occurs can help them better correct the issue. Making calls and not getting appointments is usually a sign your message is wrong. A plethora of appointments with no proposals may mean the research is wrong and the seller isn’t calling the right accounts. Finally, proposals without conversions might indicate a value proposition issue. All these can be fixed, but if they don’t know where the breakdown is happening, they can’t address it.

6. Are you blocking and protecting selling time?

The above items take time. It’s not something that can be done quickly. Research takes time, planning takes time, and making the calls takes time. Each seller must have dedicated blocks of time for selling. If they aren’t doing this, all their ready-made excuses will take precedence and they won’t sell a thing. Monitor calendars, block and tackle for them to protect their selling time, make them understand selling is the priority and time to do so is sacrosanct.

7. Are you trained in how to sell?

This one is probably the one you don’t think you need to answer. You hired these people for a reason, right? But what kind of training do they have? It isn’t enough to know how to work the sales and catering system. Do they know how to research? Do they know how to qualify? Can they overcome objections? Can they build a sales pitch? If not, invest in training at a wholesale level for your organization. Unless your company has a robust training depart- ment, this isn’t something you should manage internally. Find a good vendor and partner with them to build out a sales training program for your sellers.

It's time to stop making excuses and start doing. For those rare, true sellers, most of this will already be part of their process. But most of your sellers probably aren’t in this bucket. They’re probably in the excuses category. Now is the time to poke holes in the excuses, give them the tools they need to succeed, and watch the profits roll in. Stop the excuses and start selling.

As a 30-year industry veteran, KRISTI has a wealth of knowledge about hotel sales, marketing, revenue management, and electronic distribution. She has advised hundreds of hotels around the world on their business strategy, improving hotel performance, and overall profitability. To learn more about Kristi White, check her out at

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