Carol Lynch, senior vice president of sales at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, says being able to keep the company’s sales team in place during the pandemic has enabled her team to maintain existing business among clients that were traveling and to identify and pursue more of the same. She described for LODGING how staff and franchisees have adapted to a selling environment geared toward pandemic travelers and how the recently launched Wyndham Business platform supports their efforts.
How has the pandemic impacted your sales team?
We were fortunate that we have been able to keep most of the sales team employed, which allowed them to stay in touch with our customers, many of whom were deemed essential workers and were still traveling. However, the loss of business from clients who were not traveling required us to take steps to gain more of the business that does exist. We, therefore, launched projects to build out our value proposition, making sure it aligned with the needs of our existing clients and those like them. To present that information in one location that made it easy for corporate buyers to find us, we created Wyndham Business.
Was Wyndham Business conceived as a result of the pandemic?
It actually predates the pandemic. We started working on what would become Wyndham Business’s value proposition in January and February, intending to launch an initiative directed at small- to medium-sized, infrastructure-related business sometime this year. But once the pandemic took hold, we knew we had to go where the demand was, so we examined macroeconomic data that showed us what industries were due to recover the soonest and fastest, and we compared the industries with the accounts we managed that we knew were already traveling.
Starting in June, we began putting together a strategy to figure out who would be traveling today. Wyndham Business was designed not only for our existing business, but also to attract small- to medium-sized business in specific industries that are growing. We selected a number of industries—including construction, transportation, logistics, and utilities—and started going after and building on that business. Its official rollout was September 16.
What type of staff training was needed?
Back in the end of March, we realized we would need to redeploy the 50 percent of our sellers who had worked with the more traditional traveler—and we armed them with prospecting training, including cold calling customers, something many of our sellers hadn’t done in years. With this shift in strategy, they needed to function at a grassroots level, so we gave them prospecting tips, scripts, and provided guides on how to be a successful prospector—really, the kind of sales 101 that you learn early in your career.
How did the sales team respond to such changes in their duties?
They were willing to do whatever it took to help the company and drive business to our franchisees. But it was interesting to see how it played out among those in a sales team made up of both “hunters” and “farmers.” There were the naturals (the hunters) who were champing at the bit to attack that list of prospects, but there were other sellers who had to adjust to the way they were used to working day in and day out. What surprised us were those “farmers” who not only adjusted but excelled. What we learned is that you don’t know how you’re going to react to something until you’re in the middle of it, until you understand that that’s what’s needed.
How have franchisees responded to these changes?
They are very engaged. From the beginning, our focus as a company has been on helping our franchisees and driving business to their hotels. We partner with the operations and revenue management teams, so whenever we have an opportunity for a certain hotel or group of hotels, we present it to them. We also are in constant communication with hotels; every week, we provide a roundup with the latest information to assist them in managing through the recovery.
Do you have future plans for other programs?
Wyndham Direct is our total booking, billing, and payment solution for customers that streamlines travel management with no minimum spend or stay requirements. It is a key product within Wyndham Business, and through that, we will continue to provide new offers and incentives for travel planners. We also have Go Meet, which is our loyalty program for meeting planners. We think there’s a great opportunity to expand and evolve that offering in the future.