I have been a huge advocate of using a “tech-for-touch” approach for many years. In training articles, webcasts, and in my on-site hotel sales training workshops, I have provided suggestions for using video email apps to put the “people parts” back into hotel sales. Whereas most sales conversations these days happen in email and in-app message exchanges, personalized video emails allow salespeople to stand out.
Sadly, although everyone gets excited when I first share this concept, too many fail to incorporate it as a regular sales habit. Fortunately, I have sales training clients who have completely embraced video email and experienced the huge impact it can have on lead conversation rates and fostering strong connections.
Once such client is Chris Hardy, vice president of commercial strategy, and his sales team at Parks Hospitality Group, which manages a diverse portfolio of branded hotels in the Southeast United States. I first met Hardy when he read one of my articles about video email, and then about a year ago he engaged me to conduct a full day of training as part of his annual Sales Summit. I recently caught up with Hardy for this interview, and he shared sample videos sent by his sales team.
Note: While Hardy works in the hotel industry, the sales tactics are applicable to short-term vacation rental managers, as well.
Why did you decide to encourage your salespeople to start using video email?
Back when COVID-19 was impacting us and we were not able to have face-to-face sales conversations, I remember stumbling on one of your articles suggesting the video email. So, I started checking it out and, right away, I recognized it was a unique way of connecting with customers and prospects. Now, even in the post-COVID world, it’s still not easy to get clients to meet in person, so it’s still a very effective way to stand out. It’s much more personalized.
How has the use of video email helped your sales teams?
It has helped us break through the “digital wall” that all salespeople face these days, where conversations are mostly some form of written message exchanges. Most of our hotels are in very competitive locations, and it has really helped us stand out.
What are some of the ways in which your team has used video email?
Oh gosh, there are so many examples. First, it has proven to be a great tool for prospecting and has helped our salespeople get more responses that lead to discovery meetings. Second, it’s been good for following up on proposals and to highlight a specific area or feature that was important. It’s also been a terrific way to show appreciation for our existing clients by sending a thank you, introducing a new team member, or to highlight a new renovation or amenity. But overall, it’s just great as one of the ongoing touch points for our cadence of follow-ups so we don’t just keep on emailing and emailing.
Chris, can you give any specific examples?
Oh for sure! Jenna Light did a video walk-through of the event space as part of an initial proposal, and the client responded immediately by asking for a contract. Jenna also frequently uses video messages to follow up after events in order to encourage referrals. By the way, this video resulted in an immediate referral to another mother of a bride!
Star Robertson had a conversation with a prospect during which it came up that they both loved their dogs. Later, Star shot a short video at home during which she introduced her dog. The client replied almost immediately about how much she loved meeting Bumi and, in the end, Star booked the deal.
How have your clients reacted?
Everyone gets a ton of emails these days, so it’s just so hard to get a response at all and, when you do, it’s usually pretty short. But when clients see a video come through, they are much more likely to respond, and the responses are more in-depth. We see lots of comments coming back saying things like “I absolutely loved the video!” or “How cool!” or messages reacting to what was sent such as “Wow, the new rooms really look awesome.”
What suggestions do you have for sales leaders to encourage their teams to use this medium?
The first thing is to create an awareness of video email as being a “thing.” Passing around examples of how our various salespeople are using the tool, as well as sharing success stories and results, has definitely been key. We’ve even put together contests to make it fun, but I have also made it part of our Sales Activity Scorecard. Ultimately, I think it’s important to remind everyone that we are hospitality salespeople, so we should jump on any chance to make eye contact and share a warm smile.
I can’t say I don’t still get pushback, but sharing the successes really helps to demonstrate how effective videos can be as part of the sales process and helps the team become more proactive versus reactive As far as I’m concerned, we’re sticking with this tool for the long term!
The Tech-for-Touch Approach
The profession of hotel sales is experiencing a “fork in the road moment.” Most salespeople seem content to live off of inbound demand, cherry-picking the hottest leads, and responding solely by way of digital means then waiting for the buyers to say “OK, I’ll take it.” This “sales fishing” approach can certainly work in periods of high demand, but the smartest salespeople recognize this as an opportunity to embrace a “sales hunter” philosophy and to use a tech-for-touch approach such as video email to stand out in a crowded field of otherwise generic sales responses. It’s these salespeople who are setting themselves up for a long and prosperous career. They recognize that when “product” and “price” are the same, the “people parts” really do make all the difference.
Douglas Kennedy is the owner of Kennedy Training Network, which provides reservations sales and guest service excellence training specific to the vacation rental industry. Services include traditional, on-site training, private webinars, and telephone mystery shopping. Kennedy has been a fixture at VRMA conferences since 1996.