It is sometimes difficult for hotels with tight budgets to sponsor events, but when it involves the initiative to engage students and bring them to your property, there is always an opportunity for a return on the investment. A sales blitz is a perfect example of such a situation. A sales blitz is an event where a high volume of sales calls are made in a short period of time. It is also the perfect event for hotel companies to open their doors to students who are eager to get out of the classroom and gain practical experience. Welcoming students into your hotel, especially for an event like this, can prove to be very mutually beneficial in both the short and long term.
Case in Point: Caesars Entertainment hosted 27 students from the School of Tourism and Hospitality Management (STHM) at Temple University for a sales blitz at Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City. The event ultimately proved to be very productive for both the students and Caesars. The morning consisted of a networking breakfast, informational sessions about the company, presentations of personal career paths from the Caesars employees, and sales training. During lunch, the General Manager of Harrah’s Resort and Senior Vice President (and Temple University Alumnus), John Smith, gave a very powerful presentation about his path to success and his theories about successful leadership, motivation, and hospitality. His enthusiasm was pitch-perfect and provided a great segue into the afternoon activity: the sales calls. For three hours, the students were in a call center back of the house, calling contact lists provided by 17 National Sales Managers and were charged with one mission: scheduling appointments for all Atlantic City and Las Vegas properties to assess their meeting and convention needs. In those three hours, the students made 1,800 phone calls, set over 80 future appointments for the sales staff, and uncovered a handful of “hot leads”. At the end of the day, the top performing students were given prizes for their efforts and Rob Pattillo, Director of Hotel Operations, spoke to the students about internship opportunities.
I’m not sure if it was because the students were so well trained, because they were so inspired by the presentations, because they were trying to impress the senior staff, or because Caesars provided everyone with limitless coffee and a tower of red bull, but the students were like well-oiled calling machines. Only time will determine the monetary return on investment for Caesars; but even if no meetings are booked due to this event (which is doubtful), there was a big return on the investment of time and energy for the students and the participating employees.
Benefits for the students
The students that were invited to participate in the sales blitz were all members of student professional organizations, including the student chapters of the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA), Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), National Society for Minorities in Hospitality (NSMH), and Meeting Planners International (MPI). They were not required to attend this event for class, and had to provide their own transportation from Philadelphia to Atlantic City to participate. Because of their commitment to attend this event, they were rewarded with real world sales experience and an amazing networking opportunity.
The students were able to experience firsthand what it’s like to work in convention and meeting sales and one of the most difficult aspects: making sales calls. The students were also free to not only ask questions but also to showcase their skills to seven Caesars Entertainment sales executives. Additionally, they were given an opportunity to network with a company that does not recruit on campus and a chance to learn about the unique organizational structure of the sales department that Caesars Entertainment uses - something that could never be taught in a classroom. In a post-event survey, one student was quoted as saying:
"It exposed many students to actual sales experience that could not be provided by books or tests. We dealt with the excitement of sales and the success/rejection that follows. Also, I have seen many GM's or CEO's give a presentation to a class, but Mr. Smith's was by far the most influential and motivational. I cannot express how thankful I am to have had the opportunity to participate in this experience."
Benefits for Caesars Entertainment
The sales team at Caesars invested a lot into the success of this event. Jim O’Donnell, In-Market National Sales Manager for New York and New Jersey (and STHM Alumnus), designed all of the training content and brought together an impressive group of executive coworkers to make the sales blitz as high caliber as possible. They sponsored a full day of meeting space and catering as well as parking for everyone. Six sales managers, not based in Atlantic City, spent a full work day engaging the students at the event, discussing sales techniques, their personal experiences, and industry trends. Even the Director of Marketing, Amy Allen, who is based in Las Vegas, was able to fit this event into her busy schedule. As you can see from the above quote, the students were so impressed by the dedication and enthusiasm of the Caesars team and Caesars received major benefits from their efforts.
The obvious benefit was that they were able to call 1800 contacts in three hours, not only finding leads and setting appointments, but this was a great opportunity to update the contacts in their database that may have changed over the years. However, that was not the only positive outcome from the event; this was also a fantastic recruitment opportunity. Caesars rolled out the red carpet to a room full of students that have dedicated their secondary education to the hospitality industry and live in proximity of at least six of their properties. They had the chance to actually watch the students in action and tracked how many calls, connections, appointments and leads from each student. The sales team was constantly walking around offering advice, assistance, and assessing the performance of the students on the phones. At one point, a bilingual student even made her sales pitch in Spanish. The students were surveyed after the event, 87% were actively seeking internships or fulltime positions and 100% of the respondents said that after learning more about the company, they would consider pursuing a position with Caesars Entertainment in the future. And, although not the main goal of the sales blitz, they did bring a room full of “20 somethings” that live an hour away from Atlantic City and have summer breaks quickly approaching, to one of their major properties.
Weather you decide to do a sales blitz or a different type of event, opening the doors of your property to the classroom, if done properly, will always have a return on the investment in both the long and short term. And if anyone is looking for young, enthusiastic, and experienced sales associates, make sure you get in touch with The School of Tourism and Hospitality Management at Temple University.