Phone sales 101: Why the phone is still relevant

Howard Feiertag

No question about it: the hottest lead in hospitality is still the telephone inquiry. Whether for a single reservation or a group, there is no telling how much business is lost because we handle it so poorly. Just think about the number of things that can, and do, go wrong. To start with, how long does it take for someone to answer the call? How many rings does it take to get someone to answer the call? Do we know how many people hang up if they have to wait more than three rings for someone to answer? How many hang ups do you get in one day?

We then have to be concerned with the manner in which the call is actually answered. Has the person who will take the call been trained on how to answer the phone the right way?

Of course, not all calls are inquiries for business, but you never know which call is in fact an inquiry, so all need to be answered appropriately. In so many operations, we get the automated voicemail. Ouch! We may already be in trouble again. A real voice is much preferred, and will usually please—shock?—the caller.


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So what should the answering voice sound like? Does it sound like someone has been interrupted by the call? Does the person answering the phone sound like they are in a hurry? And how about those very long marketing messages: “thank you for calling the xyz hotel, blah, blah, blah, blah…” Too much marketing stuff up front on the call doesn’t make a caller feel good. How about a nice, warm welcome, reflecting a smiling face?

Do we show interest in the caller? Do we have patience or do we sound rushed? How about forwarding the call to someone who could be of service? Do we really know to whom this call needs to be referred? Are we in a position to answer questions? What questions do we need to ask the caller to be able to handle the inquiry?

If the call needs to be referred to the sales, reservations or catering department, do we know that there is someone who can take the call? If not, is there a form available from which questions may be asked of the caller, which in turn can be passed along to someone who can answer them in a timely fashion?

Every property should have some type of telephone inquiry information sheet available at the location where telephone inquiries are received. Remember: Missing a call, or not handling it properly, can be the difference between winning business, or losing it.

For a sample Phone Lead Questionnaire form, send me an email at [email protected].