Although it’s only early May, callers are already dreaming about their summer vacation plans. Summer camp schedules are now getting confirmed and time off from work is being requested by families everywhere. The next stage of the process is the time for mom and dad, grandmother and grandfather, or maybe the leader of the friends getaway, to start shopping for a place to stay. Most of them will start by searching online, but many will pick up the phone and ask to speak directly to an on-site, in-house expert.
On the other side of these phone calls is you, the frontline reservations agent who has such a key role in not only ensuring the profitability of your company during what is likely the peak season, but also for creating jobs for countless colleagues in hotel operations.
For most resorts, inventory for summer is already starting to book up. Revenue managers of course knew this in advance and therefore set the rates (and restrictions) accordingly! Guess who gets to explain (and defend) those rates and restrictions? YOU! The following are some sales tactics that are especially useful this time of year:
The first step in selling peak, high season rates is to convince yourself that your rates are “worth it” to the callers! Chances are that when you have been quoting low to moderate rates during off-season, it is sometimes shocking when your inventory search first returns those high demand rates. Remember to quote all rates with confidence, even if they seem high to you personally!
Next, we need to get really comfortable with explaining why rates are higher this time of year than at other times. Callers might mention that rates are significantly higher than they have experienced previously for dates with less demand. Your first reaction might be to explain that the previous stay was during a slower time of the year, and the current rates are during busy periods of peak demand. “The rates go up due to high occupancy!” or “This is a busy time of year, so the rates are higher…”
While that may seem like the right way to frame the discussion, a better approach is to explain that the high-season rates are actually the “normal” or “prevailing” rates. Rather than raising rates during busy times, the hotel actually is lowering the rates when it is slower. Example:
“During your last visit it was a slower time of year, so we were able to offer lower rates (or specials) at that time. However for these dates our normal (or prevailing) rate applies.”
If they continue to object you might say:
“Are your dates flexible by chance? (No!) Well then actually this is a wonderful time to visit because…”
Other callers may simply offer a general objection such as “Wow, that rate is really high,” rather than offering specific reasons for objecting. In these situations it is important to understand that some consumers routinely ask for discounts, just to check to see how you will react. They might be fine with the rates quoted and just testing to make sure they are getting the best deal.
Options for responding include:
- Offer to check alternative dates, room categories, and/or packages.
- If they are not flexible, hold your ground with a statement of confidence by saying something such as:
“I’m not sure if you’ve had a chance to check around, but our rates are usually very competitive with others in the area.”
- If you have not already done so, use “rate framing” and reference the top-tier “prevailing” rate.
During peak demand discounts are closed out and usually the accommodations that are left are the top-tier (highest priced.) If so, our immediate reaction might be to say:
“All we have left is our ___ rate” or
“I’m not showing any discounts.” (Example: AAAA/AARP)
Likewise, only higher priced accommodations remain open. Example: Specialty rooms, suites, premium locations and views. Our immediate reaction is to say
“All we have left is…”
The problem here is that this presents the remaining options as being “left-overs.”
Instead, make what’s left sound as if it is still a desirable option and along the way create a sense of urgency.
“Fortunately, what I still have left is…” Then convey the value received with the higher-rated options.
Sometimes during peak demand callers will request the very best accommodation types. Rather than upselling, in these cases we need to “downsell.” Again, avoid making what’s left sound undesirable by saying:
“All we have left is…”
Instead, make what’s left sound as like a desirable option. Along the way, create a sense of urgency:
“Fortunately, during that time what I still have open is…”
However, be sure to point out any glaring deficiencies, in order to manage the guest’s expectations in advance
Another revenue tactic used often during peak summer months is to implement minimum stay restrictions. Odds are good that others in your area also have similar restrictions for peak dates. However, stay restrictions often result in callers saying their plans don’t allow for a longer stay. Example: Three-day holiday weekend:
“We just can’t stay over on Sunday night! My wife is a physician and has to be back at the hospital on Monday.”
First, explain that others in the area are likely also restricting stays.
“Since it is a holiday weekend, like other hotels/resorts we do have a minimum stay of three nights…”
Next, probe to find out if they can extend plans.
“So there’s no way you are able to extend your stay?”
Finally, if they cannot extend, present the extra night as a benefit.
“One nice advantage is that on your last day you won’t have to worry about the checkout time and you can stay as late as you would like.”
By practicing using these techniques, you will be better prepared to explain the tighter stay restrictions in place this summer, and to position the high season rates as being a good value. After all, it probably is the best time of year to visit your destination!