The first step in understanding this business of prospecting is to be sure we know what the term refers to in our hospitality industry. There is so much confusion among hotel properties as to how managers and salespeople interpret the term “prospect.” So often we hear comments such as, “I just got a good lead for business.” Well, was it a lead or a prospect? Let’s explore some easy and clear definitions. Because when we talk about “prospecting for business,” do we really means looking for leads or actually finding prospects?
The distinction is easy: Leads are suspects and prospects are those who are in a position to do business with us, if they chose to do so. So once we find a lead, we must be able to develop the lead into a prospect. Of course, we do this by asking appropriate questions to see if this is someone who could do business with us.
Leads are all over the place—these are just people who might be connected to a business that could use a particular hotel, but we do not know that until we ask pertinent questions. We can find leads in newspapers, telephone books, business listings, from different hotel staff and offices, chamber of commerce membership lists, on the Internet via various sites, the list goes on and on. Or we can cold-call, by going door-to door in office buildings. This method is pretty much non-productive and a big waste of time.
Many salespeople busy themselves by seeking leads through social networks, or by getting a listing of meeting planners and making phone calls; again, this is cold-calling. Of course, some of these ways work, and maybe it will take a dozen phone calls, or visits in business offices, to find a lead that might become a prospect.
Here’s the key: Salespeople must figure out the best and most productive way to find leads that can develop into prospects. The best way to do this is to access the old files at the property. In sales we all know the value of follow up, and tracing our files, to make sure that a follow-up is conducted periodically. Let’s admit it—we don’t trace all files and we miss a good deal of good business that way. So if we take the time to go back to old files, we will find leads from former business that should be contacted. This is the best source. After all, the business has been there before, they know the property, and may very well develop into a prospect again. Consider spending more time doing this over cold-calling or trying to connect through social networks.
For a Prospect Survey Sheet form to use to help gather the information from prospects send a request to [email protected].