Interview with hotel director of sales: pro secrets to a winning work ethic
R&R may not seem to be a tough sell, but when you’re pushing a new hotel within an emerging market, in competition with your employer’s other regional properties, plus other competing brands, “It’s hard to master,” says Ronnie Collins, director of sales and marketing for Hilton Cleveland Downtown.
Gearing up for the opening of the new 600-room, convention center-style hotel last June proved to be both a great challenge and opportunity, says Collins.
“Cleveland is America’s best comeback city right now. There is a brand new convention center, a reinvigorated downtown with a beautiful public square, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and one-of-a-kind sporting events and concerts. We’re not just adding a new hotel, we’re changing the way that people view Cleveland,” says Collins, who calls himself a turn-around guy, “It’s kind of my specialty,” he says.
An ambitious spirit was instilled in Collins as a child, “I played a lot of sports and hate to lose more than I love to win.”
This drive has helped Collins to rise in a field where, “There’s no grey area. In sales, a quarter or two without making your goal, you typically lose your job,” he says. “You’re always selling the future, that’s how they finance the hotel. If your budget is $10 million, you need $7 million to $7.5 million already pre-sold for your upcoming year. We have business on the books through 2022 already.”
A background in restaurants on the food and beverage side proved to be an asset to Collins when he transitioned to hotels. “Anyone who goes in to sales with an operational background is better off for it,” he says. “You understand how the back end works – from the culinary side in the kitchen and banquets, to the stewarding side and prep. You can’t know what all of that means without having lived it,” says the executive.
Such experience is key when, for example, “You’re booking a piece of business using meeting space. Sometimes, you book another piece of business close to it, but you can’t leave fifteen minutes to turn a ballroom over for the next function. You’re setting your operation up to fail. To be successful, you have to find ways to put pieces of business together that flow well. It helps with our service culture,” says Collins.
Managing twenty-three direct reports, Collins holds a daily, morning meeting, “To cover what’s on the plate for the day. ... There are client meetings, site inspections, we discuss strategy about acquiring new clients and around retention – to hold on to the business you already have,” says Collins.
A “really good recruiter,” Collins says he seeks people with an entrepreneurial spirit and who are strong minded, and empowers them to make their own decisions.
“In our business, there tends to be paralysis by analysis sometimes over what we should be charging. I’m a fan of giving people the tools they need to make decisions. Speed to client and speed to market is important. If you’re spending two or three days deciding whether to book business, someone else is already has already got pole position on you. If it’s the right pattern and rate, the right spend, and profiles well for the hotel, then let’s get it on the books and get on to the next one,” he says.
Collins also positions his sales team according to their personality types.
“Some are more extroverted and others more reserved. Those who are extremely patient and great at relationships will do well in the association market. With a corporate, medical pharmaceutical planner – give them the information as fast as you can. Be concise and get to the point because you don’t have a second chance at them,” says Collins.
If you want it, sky’s the limit when it comes to earning capacity, says Collins.
“Income potential varies, but entry-level sales with bonus can equate to $40,000-$60,000. A mid-level sales manager can earn $60,000-$80,000 and senior sales managers and account directors can earn six figure salaries. The more you book, the more you make. It’s pay for performance, which keeps you motivated,” says Collins.
Find and apply for hotel sales jobs!