Networking Tips for Hoteliers:
Why Should You Network? Hotel owners who develop relationships and networks within their local communities are more likely to see an influx of new guests. Sitting at the front desk staring at the check-in screen won’t build your revenue. You have to get out the door and develop relationships in order to bring the guests in the door. People do business with people they like. Therefore, the people in your network need to get to know you as a trusted professional and as a likeable individual. In the hospitality industry in particular, it’s not just business, it’s personal. In any role at your hotel, you are selling both your brand and yourself. You need know how to blend the two into a powerful sales pitch with everyone you meet.
Whom Do You Network With? Your best network is right around the corner. Ignore what your mother taught you, and do talk to strangers. Anyone you meet can potentially become a guest, referral source, alliance partner, or advisor. Build relationships with the owners and staff of local businesses such as travel agencies, banks, restaurants and boutiques. Where there’s a wedding, there’s a wedding party and out-of-town guests. Meet with the bridal stores, florists and caters at least every three to six months. Know your local real estate agents, contractors, architects and painters. People moving, or in the middle of a messy renovation, often need temporary accommodations.
Naresh Patel, owner of America’s Best Value Inn, Turlock CA tells how he landed one of his favorite clients by chasing a port-a-potty on a flatbed down the street. He followed it to a new construction site and approached the Construction Manager (CM). The CM had no immediate need for a room, and no time to talk. Naresh offered him a one night free stay, wrote it on the back of his business card, handed it to the CM, and walked away. Six months later, the CM called Naresh to book multiple rooms for several months for all of his workers, and has been sending his team to that ABVI ever since.
Where Do You Network? Go where you feel comfortable, where you have something in common professionally or personally. Try the Chamber of Commerce, business referral groups, and cultural and religious organizations. Fundraisers, cocktail parties and luncheons provide many networking opportunities. Alternately, attend an event with an activity you enjoy: a cooking class, tennis game or book club will give you something specific to do, and to talk about.
When Do You Network? Timing is everything. Network when you’re at your best, and can maintain your energy and a positive attitude. If you’re a morning lark, schedule breakfast meetings. If you’re a night owl, meet over drinks. You can also set a time limit. For example, at a networking event, give yourself thirty minutes to meet three interesting people. Once you reach your goal, you can leave, or relax and talk to your friends.
What Do You Say? Making conversation is both science and art. Practice your skills by attending different events and meeting new people. To prepare conversation starters, read up on current events, bestselling books or relevant publications such as HotelNewsNow. Think of yourself as a researcher or talk show host. Ask someone for their opinion on something you can both relate to: How’s the new sushi restaurant in town? What do you think of the speaker? Ask for advice: What are your best marketing tools? What other networking events do you recommend? Ask professional questions: What are your biggest business challenges this quarter? Get personal and ask: What are your plans for the summer holidays? What is your favorite vacation spot?
I know from personal experience that these technique really pay off. On a train ride from New York City, the woman sitting beside me asked me to wake her up before her stop. Noticing the luggage at her feet, I commented. “Looks like you had a busy trip. What do you do?” She replied, “I teach English to foreign executives, to help them manage their business and social functions. What do you do?” I replied “I teach professionals how to become better networkers and land new clients.” From that casual interaction, Louise Egan, Director of Soho Language Group, has become both a client and a friend.
What Is Your Pitch? Remember, it’s not just business, it’s personal. Your elevator pitch tells others what makes your hotel special. Your personal pitch tells others what makes you special. Keep a sense of perspective – and a sense of humor. It takes less time to make conversation than it does to make a bed. And no one will bounce a quarter off your head.
Author’s Note: This article originally appeared in HotelNewsNow, July 29, 2013.