Connecting the Dots for a “Hot” Prospect
Before you meet with a decision-maker, you need to do some behind- the-scenes research. You need to dig up any and all information that will help you connect the dots for your prospect. The following scenario proves the point.
Jake (not his real name) was hoping to convince the owner of a local hotel to upgrade his air-conditioning system, which was well past its useful life, but still operating, thanks to a lot of unplanned maintenance and crossed fingers. The hotel in question was located in Central California, a place where temperatures soar in the summertime. Jake knew that the current AC system was no longer able to maintain design temperature in the hot summer months—both the hotel’s engineer and the front desk manager had shared that several guests had given them each an earful lately on how their rooms were hotter than they had bargained for.
The hotel was owned by an out-of-state investor who was so worried about the Central California economy that he had imposed a capital spending freeze on all of his assets there. Jake knew he needed to compile an inarguable case for upgrading the AC of this particular asset, something that would “shake the Etch-A-Sketch” for this owner and draw a new picture that would shake loose some capital.
So what did Jake do? He first paid a visit to the hotel’s night auditor. Why the night auditor? Because he’s the person who has firsthand knowledge of how many rooms they had rented in the preceding days, weeks, and months. He is also the person who knows in which direction the average daily room rate has been trending over time. He has a keen understanding of the hotel’s break-even point. Bottom line: The night auditor was Jake’s ticket to understanding the impact that AC-related declines in occupancy might be having on this hotel’s income statement.
Jake explained to the night auditor, “Listen, I’m working with the owner to evaluate some potential capital improvements to this property, and a question popped into my mind the other day that I bet you could help me answer. Have you noticed any trends in occupancy in this hotel over the last six months?”
Much to Jake’s satisfaction, the night auditor shared with him that occupancy had been consistently falling over the last several months; their monthly revenue was now nearly $40,000 lower than last year’s monthly average. Jake then circled back with the front desk manager, a few local travel agents, and some other folks in the community. Guess what? The word on the street was that this hotel could no longer maintain design temperature in the hottest summer months. The locals now knew the property as “the hot hotel”—and by “hot hotel,” they didn’t mean the latest “must-visit” boutique property!
Shortly thereafter, Jake called the owner and laid out the facts. “You say you don’t want to spend $250,000 upgrading your AC. Well, guess what? Over the last several months, you’ve actually been paying for the system you refuse to buy.” When the owner replied, “What are you talking about?” Jake shared the results of his conversations with the night auditor, front desk manager, and others in the community. “Over the last six months, you’ve probably lost a quarter of a million dollars in room nights (which happens to be the entire cost of the AC system I recommended to you last month) because the word on the street is that you can’t control the temperature during the summer months.” He continued, “What do you think is going to happen when Hotels.com or Yelp picks up on the fact that your property is ‘hot’—and not in the good sense? The locals already know it, which is why you’re seeing fewer people referring their own visitors to your property. What happens the next time one of those “mystery shoppers” from Hotels.com dressed in a black leotard and white gloves drops in for a summer night’s stay and you get dinged a couple stars because your rooms aren’t cool enough? Your $40,000-a-month loss will get even larger. How low can your average occupancy sink before all those lost room nights put you below break-even? You could lose your hotel to the bank if this trend worsens.”
As you might imagine, these carefully assembled data points, presented in such a compelling manner, finally captured the owner’s attention. He would have been crazy not to take action when presented with the reality that the room nights his property had been losing represented more than the debt service on a brand new AC system.
It’s all about having the insight and persistence to go behind the scenes and get tactical information that you can then communicate to the person who has the power to effect change. Even the most reluctant prospect can be turned into a buyer if you invest the time to research and connect the dots.
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