What Do Prospecting and Escape Rooms Have in Common?

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Whether online or in-person, the goal of Escape Rooms is to unlock each room to move onto the next level. Doing so correctly will ultimately lead to success. But in order to do it properly, you must be methodical and purposeful.

Selling is much the same. There are many stages to the sales process before a salesperson can “unlock” a piece of business, and it can take five to 12 points of interaction to close a sale. To sell successfully, each stage needs to have a specific objective so you can move to the next stage of the sales process.

The Sequence of Selling

The next step is based on where you are at in the sales process with that specific account or client.

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Sales is a sequence of events being executed consistently at the right time. When we don’t have objectives for each of our sales interactions, we often take a hammer from the toolbox and hope it works on every prospect when, in fact, we should be using a scalpel.

Smiling and dialing don’t work, and sales require a lot of effort. There’s a lot of information to keep track of and to manage; it’s important that salespeople have a system to manage the various stages of the sales process so leads and opportunities don’t die on the vine.

Preparation is key to any outbound call strategy, and using a tool such as a call planner will increase your chances of getting to the next stage of the sales process and unlocking the door to success. For example, if you don’t know if you are speaking with a decision-maker or if they even have a need, it’s premature to ask how many room nights they have coming into the market or if they are interested in a corporate rate. Therefore, the objective is simply to find out who the decision-maker is, then use the next call to introduce your hotel, and start qualifying their needs.

Start with qualifying your suspects. Consider the following questions when reaching out to prospects:

  • Is this an account the hotel is already working with?
  • What areas of their business have potential travel needs?
  • What could be driving their travel needs, like hiring, maintenance shutdown, or project?
  • Why would they benefit from talking to us right now?
  • Who are they currently using as a preferred hotel?
  • What do their travelers value in a hotel?
  • Why should they work with you versus the competition?
  • Where are you at in the sales process with this prospect? For example, you have bid on business before, they are a new contact and you have never met, or they have a preferred rate in place with no room nights.

You may have some salespeople who say, “I’ve done this a thousand times before and I know how to execute a sales call. It’s all in my head.” These are the folks who will likely get shut down by the prospect because it likely sounded better in their head than it did coming out of their mouth.

Think of a call planner as your map for navigating every call. It keeps the salesperson from going all over the place and potentially ending up with a lot of unanswered questions. And if the customer goes on a tangent, it helps them direct the customer back to the right place in the sales cycle.

Synthesizing Your Research and Setting Objectives

Once you’ve done your research on an account, it’s important to do this next step, which is often overlooked and that is to answer the question, “so what?” What opportunities are available?

  • What is going on in their organization that could be driving travel?
  • What value do you offer over the competition that they would be interested in hearing about?
  • What trigger events have happened over the past few months?
  • What projects have they announced that may involve travel?
  • Who in the company was recently promoted to procurement manager?
  • Who in your LinkedIn network is following your posts?

The next process involves setting up your call objectives. Your call planner should include a place for this. It’s important to understand the difference between the objective for a specific prospecting call and the goal for the overall account:

  • Your goal is the ultimate outcome, such as, “increase market share” or “steal this business from the competition.”
  • Your objectives measure milestones along the way. Remember, it takes five to 12 points of interaction to get someone to buy from you.
  • Setting an objective for each call will allow you to be laser-focused on where you are at in the sales process with this account so you can get their buy-in and move to the next stage.

Once a clear objective has been established, you can better develop an opening statement and qualifying questions. These need to be in alignment with your call objective, so make sure you have the right one. Often, if you are preparing for a call and struggling with an opening statement, it may be because you either don’t have the right objective for the call or it’s too vague. Your call objective is the foundation upon which you build your call strategy.

Preparing an Opening Statement

Preparing an opening statement sounds easy, but even the most seasoned salesperson struggles to put pen to paper because most of us don’t write down what is going to come out of our mouths. But consider the alternative if you just wing it. Knowing how difficult it is to get a live body on the phone you don’t want to risk getting shut down because you weren’t prepared when you finally get a buyer on the phone.
Consider these best practices:

  • Keep it under 30 seconds. Remember your call is an interruption and not expected. You have very little time to capture your prospect’s interest. Once you write it out, practice and iterate before you call to ensure it is relevant and gets to the point.
  • Never sell in the opening statement. This is the most common mistake. Salespeople often get excited that they have connected with a live body, they jump right into talking about the hotel. For example, saying, “I’m calling from the beautiful ABC Hotel by the airport. We are newly renovated, serving a hot breakfast and have an industry-recognized cleaning program to ensure the safety of all travelers.” You are adding zero value here and they can find all that information on your website.
  • Understand the filter that a buyer goes through. This conversation shouldn’t be about you; it’s about your customer.

According to sales expert, author, and speaker Jill Konrath, when prospects are contacted by a salesperson, there are key determining factors on whether they will listen or return the call:

  • How simple is the request?
  • Does it bring value?
  • Is it aligned with my objectives (or is it relevant)?
  • Is it a priority?

Your opening statement must meet these markers to increase the likelihood of getting the prospect to continue to engage.

Have You Made it Through to the Final Room?

As we return to the example of how prospecting relates to Escape Rooms, we can see that there are specific tactics that should be followed in order for your team to be successful in making their escape. This is true for sales strategists.

It is critical that you keep the process fresh and set achievable objectives along the way. Remember, business conversations take research, planning, and time. Most of all, they take a lot of listening. As salespeople make calls and follow a call planner, keep in mind that the process is not static. You must keep focused on your client and the needs of their travelers.
Keep defining, refining, and working on the strategy. This process is not only for new prospects but also for existing clients. Sellers should have a cadence in place to connect and requalify existing clients, so you are not taking anything for granted. Use every point of contact along the way to clarify assumptions, validate findings, and uncover new challenges. Additionally, when you take the time to learn more about the industry and the company you can better develop relationships with other decision-makers in the company.

Sales is not just a numbers game, it’s an art and a science. When building your sales strategy, it is important to follow the proper sequence of events. Not unlike finding your way out of the Escape Room, applying the proper sales strategies and focus will help you advance to the next level.

This excerpt has been exclusively adapted for LODGING from ‘Room to Grow—Not Leaving Sales to Change’ by Tammy Gillis, founder and CEO of Gillis.

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With over 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Tammy Gillis, founder and CEO of Gillis, launched her sales career with Hilton Hotels and spent 10 years in various sales leadership roles. Tammy’s entrepreneurial drive led her to start a hospitality consulting and training company in 2013. She saw a gap in how salespeople were being onboarded into the industry and felt they were not being set up for success.