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Mission-Critical Leadership Behaviors for Growing a Successful Hotel Sales Team

With nearly 20 years in hospitality sales, I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside many talented leaders, teams, and clients. If there’s one lesson I’ve learned along the way, it’s this: creating an environment where employees can thrive is paramount to having happy clients.

This is especially important in hospitality, where the ultimate goal is to create memorable experiences that delight clients enough to return. Anything you can do internally to ensure your clients are having an easy, enjoyable experience working with your property, you should consider.

So, I ask you: when’s the last time you checked in with your team?

I mean really checked in with them – not just about sales quotas or client feedback or competitor concerns – but on a more personal level. With staff shortages sticking around for many properties, now more than ever employee health should be a priority.

Meeting Your Team Where They Are

When I think about leaders I’ve admired most, the one thing they all have in common is their ability and willingness to be in tune with their team, and I aim to show the same consideration.

Rarely does a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership work. People have different skills and talents. People have different levels of experience and understanding. People learn and communicate differently.

While a seasoned salesperson with decades of experience can be left to their own devices, a newcomer needs you to not make assumptions about what they know. Instead, you need to take the time to explain things in detail and celebrate their eagerness to learn.

Encouraging Mentorship

You know those seasoned salespeople I mentioned? They’d be great mentors to newer staff, bringing different perspective than you and, in some situations, maybe being more trusted confidants. But across your entire property and our industry, there are talented people who have amazing perspective and experience to share that can meaningfully shape someone’s career. Encourage your team to make time for networking and relationship building.

Using Data to Learn, Not Just Prove Success

Data can be powerful evidence that what your team is doing works and is having an impact on your property’s growth. Of course, data also shows what isn’t working – but don’t interpret it as failure. Use the “bad” data to empower your team to be curious and explore what’s happening and what can change. That way, you’re creating an environment where creativity and iteration are an asset to your sales strategy, not feared as a hindrance.

Data can also help you learn from each other. For example, if you uncover some of your team is turning around contracts faster than others, share the success tactics with the entire team.

Likewise, empower your team to use data to help your clients, too. For example, at Sertifi, we regularly evaluate platform usage and if additional training is needed to help properties succeed. For a hotel sales team, maybe you explore points in the planning process clients go radio-silent and identify an opportunity to reduce pain for them.

Giving Your Team Access to the Best Tools

Rarely would a salesperson say they have enough time in a day, so I often ask my team what tools and technology could help them work more efficiently and improve their client relationships.

Many hotel brands have an approved vendors list, so meeting with them and seeing demos is a great place to start for finding the tools that best fit your needs. Don’t hesitate to reach out to other properties in your brand or within your management company to hear their experience with different vendors. This can give you the information you need and help you identify partners who deeply understand hospitality and your unique challenges, versus having a generalized offering that doesn't consider importance nuances (full service versus select service, resort versus business hotel, beach destination versus metropolitan destination, etc.).

Of course, once you identify a solution you’re interested in, the process of getting from interest to success isn’t immediate. Here’s the typical approach I follow.


Keep in mind a good vendor will not only initiate implementation planning; they'll also be available and hands-on during implementation to ensure your team gets trained properly.

One tactic I love doing is designing exercises for the team to get tangible experience running through the software, and then we come together to share feedback.

The Relationship Between Humans and Tech

The reality is, almost everything – including the behaviors I discussed above – is made easier with the use of technology. It can be a learning tool, a communication tool, a networking tool, a sales tool, and so much more.

Technology should never be a hindrance or replacement but rather an extension of your team that helps everyone work smarter, close more business, and take better care of clients. This will always require emotional intelligence and empathy, two things even the smartest tech will never have (#1 rule from media: don’t let bots get emotional).

Technology is also vital for retaining talented people. At the end of the day, salespeople are salespeople because we’re hungry and like to see our numbers climb. Anything we can do to hit our quotas quicker, uncover more opportunity, or work better with our clients, the happier we’ll be.

Even better, this talent can bring new ideas to you. Always create time and space to listen to feedback, whether it’s a team meeting, 1:1 meetings, surveys, or something else. Most importantly, don’t just listen – take action. You and your team will be better for it.


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About the author

Theresa Ellsworth

Theresa Ellsworth is the vice president of sales, regional accounts, at Sertifi. Bringing nearly 20 years of experience in hospitality sales, she plays a vital role in strategically growing Sertifi and helping hospitality businesses around the U.S. succeed with technology.