Monthly Archives: February 2013

LinkedIn – Advanced Thoughts For Forward-Thinking Hotel Sales Managers

advancedLast week I shared some tips on how hotel sales managers could use LinkedIn as a prospecting tool and I want to thank all of you who sent me emails or reposted the post.

BTW, I did follow up with the sales manager that I referred to in the original post and he is making great progress connecting with individuals and following companies that are associated with his territory and market segment.

That said, here are some other ideas that you can incorporate into your LinkedIn prospecting strategies that can help you to generate more connections and leads.

Raise your hand if you love cold calling!

For those that say cold calling is a waste of time must not be using LinkedIn to gather intelligence on prospects, companies and organizations they are targeting.  With LinkedIn there is no excuse for ‘cold’ calling.

When you view a prospect’s profile on LinkedIn, you will find so many opportunities to break the ice and quickly turn your call into a conversation and not a sales pitch.

Here’s an example.  I was viewing a profile of a VP of Sales and Marketing that I wanted to contact.  When I scrolled down to see what groups he was affiliated with, I noticed that he was an alumni of a university where some of my friend’s kids played football.  In my email, I included a reference to those football players and asked about what sort of season the team was expecting to have this coming year.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 12.51.47 PMCall it luck but he called me shortly after receiving my email to find out when was the best time that I could speak with him!

If you are having challenges getting through to a senior decision maker, then consider upgrading your account so that you can send an InMail.

InMail is LinkedIn’s internal email system that allows you to send emails direct to the recipient without requiring an introduction.

Upgrading to a paid account

Speaking of InMail, if you upgrade from a free account to a Premium account, here are some advantages for your consideration:

InMail – As I mentioned above, you can send message without an introduction and LinkedIn suggests that you will get a 30 percent response rate.

Profile Organizer – You will have the ability to track files in a dedicate workspace and organize those files into specific folders and add details such as notes and contact information.

View more profiles – With a Premium LinkedIn account, you can only access of a minimum of 100 additional profiles from an advanced search.

Who’s viewed your profile – If it’s part of your MO to reach out to those who have viewed your profile then it may be worth the extra fee to have this capability.

If you plan to upgrade your account, here is a quick rundown on the costs.  Each program’s complete inclusions can be viewed by clicking on this link.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 1.39.48 PMPersonal Plus – $7.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – You get the full list of who has viewed your profile and 100 additional profile views included in your search.

Business – $19.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – In addition to the inclusions in the Personal plan, you get 3 InMails per month, view full profiles of anyone in your network, 300 additional profile views included in your search, and 4 premium filters included in the profile such as Seniority, Company size, Interests and Fortune 1000.

Business Plus – $39.95 a month (if you pay in full for 1 year) – In addition to the inclusions in the Business plan, you get 10 InMails per month and 500 additional profile views included in your search.

Since most of you reading this are in hotel sales, the Business plan is most likely your best and most cost effective choice when considering upgrading your account.

Who’s looking at you?

Do you reach out to those who are viewing your profile?  It’s a great way to connect and begin to network with those individuals if and only if there appears to be a mutual fit.

From your profile page, scroll down a tad and on the right-hand side and you will see who has viewed your profile.  Click on the link.

Screen shot 2013-02-25 at 2.15.15 PMAs you will note, these three individuals viewed my profile.  Two of them have no connection with me because their profile contains a ‘Connect’ button and the third is an existing connection because it allows me to send him a direct message.

For those viewers who have ‘Connect’ next to their profile, you should conduct some research about them to see if they are someone who you would like to network with or help out in some way in the future.  If not, don’t pull the trigger.

If you decide to request a connection, please do not send the canned LinkedIn ‘I’d like to add you’ invitation.  Instead, say something like ‘Joe thanks for viewing my profile.  Would you like to connect?  Mary Smith.

Who is coming and going?

As suggested in the previous post, you should be following your client’s and your prospect’s companies or organizations.

LinkedIn will send you announcements about those companies and organizations that you are following and sometimes they can provide some insight that may help you to spot something that could prompt a call to check in and gather intelligence.

Include your LinkedIn profile in your email signature

Hopefully you have taken the time to complete your profile on LinkedIn.  If you haven’t, get to it so as you grow your network, you connections and prospects will have the right impression of you and your ability to provide them with the type of professionalism and service that they expect and deserve.

At the very least, you should include a link to your LinkedIn profile in your email signature.  Here are the directions for Mac Mail.  If you use Outlook, click on this link for details.

  1. Open your LinkedIn profile.
  2. Go to your email and click on ‘Mail’ and then ‘Preferences’.
  3. In the pop-up menu choose ‘Signatures’.
  4. Locate the signature that you want to add your LinkedIn link to, highlight it and copy it.
  5. Open ‘Pages’ and select a blank document.
  6. Paste your email signature into the blank document.
  7. Locate the area that you want to include the link and type in the word ‘LinkedIn’.
  8. Go back to your LinkedIn profile page, highlight and copy your vanity URL.
  9. Go back to your Pages document, highlight the word LinkedIn, go to the top right-hand side of the document and select ‘Inspector’.
  10. Click on the ‘Link inspector’ icon located at the right-hand side of the window.
  11. Next click on ‘Hyperlink’, check the box next to ‘Enable as a hyperlink’, make sure that the ‘Link to’ is ‘Webpage’ and past your LinkedIn URL into the URL field.  Go to the bottom of that window and make sure that the box called ‘Make all hyperlinks inactive’ is not checked.
  12. Close the window.

Screen shot 2013-02-28 at 1.16.07 PM

Here is how to include a LinkedIn image in your Mac Mail signature.  If you use Outlook, click on this link for details.

  1. Open two Safari windows, open your LinkedIn account on both pages, move your cursor over ‘Profile’ and choose ‘Edit’ from the drop-down menu.  This will save time as you go back and forth to copy images and links.
  2. In one window just below ‘Done Editing’ you will see your vanity URL and click on the ‘Edit’ link.
  3. On the page that appears in your search return you will see ‘Profile Badges’ on the lower right-hand side of the page.  Click on the ‘Create a profile badge’ link.
  4. Find a profile badge that you would like to include in your email signature, right-click the image that you want, ‘Save Image As’ to your Desktop file and give it a name like ‘LinkedIn image’ and click ‘Save’.
  5. Go to your Desktop file, double click the saved LinkedIn image, and it will open in ‘Preview’.
  6. In Preview, go to ‘Edit’ and then ‘Select All’ or choose ‘Command ‘A’.
  7. Go back to ‘Edit’ and then select ‘Copy’ or choose ‘Command ‘C’ to copy the image.
  8. Go to Mac Mail and in the upper left-hand corner, click on ‘Mail’ and select ‘Preferences’ and click on ‘Signatures’ from the pop-up menu.
  9. Locate the signature that you would like to include the LinkedIn image locate and an area in your signature line where you would like to place the image and right-click ‘Paste’ or choose ‘Command ‘V’.  The image will look too large but not to worry.  Leave the signature pop-up menu open.
  10. Now go back to the second Safari window that contains your LinkedIn profile and then right-click and copy your vanity URL.
  11. Go back to your email signature pop-up menu, left click on the LinkedIn image that you inserted into your signature line and it will be highlighted.
  12. Go up to ‘Edit’ and select ‘Add Link’ or choose “Command ‘K’.
  13. Paste your LinkedIn vanity URL into the box and click OK and you are done.

Send yourself a test of the new signature with the link in the text or in the LinkedIn image to see if it looks like what you expected and that it sends the viewer to your LinkedIn profile.

Next, send a brief email to your clients and prospects inviting them to connect with you on LinkedIn.

In the email, provide the following steps to make sure they understand the process.

  • Step #1 – Click on your LinkedIn link
  • Step #2 – Click the ‘Connect’ button on your profile page
  • Step #3 – When LinkedIn asks the question ‘How do you know Jane?’, direct them to check ‘Other’ and add your email address to the blank ‘Jane’s email address and click ‘Send Invitation’.

LinkedIn is just one of the areas that I address in my new educational workshop for hotel sales managers called ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a hotel consulting and sales training company that helps hotel owners and their sales teams to grow their business and generate more sales.

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Filed under hotel strategies, LinkedIn, Sales Strategies

A LinkedIn Prospecting Guide For Hotel Sales Managers

LinkedinI received a call the other day from a hotel sales manager who was seeking my advice because he was struggling to meet his sales quota.  His real dilemma was that he recently relocated to an unfamiliar city and needed to make up some ground as quickly as possible.

We talked at great length about how be planned to generate leads, how much time he would devote to prospecting and what networking strategies he would put in place.

One such strategy he mentioned that got my attention was that he wanted to ramp up his prospecting activities on LinkedIn.

Imagine that.  A hotel sales manager who is planning on using LinkedIn to communicate and network with prospects, build business relationships and generate referrals and sales.

I like this guy’s approach and if you are a sales manager who aspires to do the same, read on.

Now I assume that many of you who have opened a LinkedIn account, have a 101 understanding of how it works but are not using LinkedIn as a tool to prospect for new business.

Before I get in to the nuts and bolts of how to effectively use LinkedIn in order to generate leads, let me take just a minute to address something that is very important for you to consider before you make your next move.

COMPLETE YOUR PROFILE!

If you have not yet completed your profile or you are not confident that your current profile puts your best professional foot forward then here is a great article written by Melonie Dodaro with Top Dog Social Media called 19 Steps To The Perfect LinkedIn Profile that I encourage you to read.  You will be glad you did.

After you have completed your profile (that means 100%) or adjusted the content of your profile it’s time to find out where your prospects are located within the LinkedIn community.

Join Groups

Your prospects are members of various groups on LinkedIn and now you have the opportunity to join them, communicate with them, send them direct messages (without having to deal with a gatekeeper), provide them with value (information that addresses their pain, solves their problems or stimulates the need to comment) and gives you the opportunity to become an influencer in up to 50 groups that you are eligible to join.

Go to the upper right-hand side of your LinkedIn profile page, click on the drop down menu next to the ‘Search’ field and select the word ‘Groups’.  If you are a sales manager that is responsible for the SMERF market then type in the keyword ‘military’, as an example, and you will find that there are 3,000+ results in the search return.  Drill down until you find a group or groups to that you should join!

Screen shot 2013-02-08 at 11.20.56 AM

If you are responsible for the ‘Corporate’ market then type in the keyword ‘corporate’ and cull through the 11,000+ results provided in the search return.

Introduce yourself!

Now that you have identified and joined groups, you need to announce your arrival.

If you are targeting meeting and event planners, for example, and you’ve joined a group like Independent Meeting & Event Professionals Network you should take a minute to let the other members of the group know that you have joined and look forward to actively participating in the group.

In the ‘Start Discussion’ field next to your photo, add a message like ‘I am excited to be a part of (add group name here). This is just an example so let your creative juices flow.  Next you will have the opportunity to ‘Add more details’ to your ‘Start Discussion’ as well as provide a link to whatever you feel is associated with you and your introduction to the group. Maybe it’s a link to your hotel’s website or possibly a link to something that you and other members may be passionate about or directly associated with like Susan G. Komen for the Cure as an example.  You will most likely have a better chance to connect with other members if you can strike a cord with them as opposed to being viewed as just another hotel sales manager.  The choice is yours.

Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 5.25.01 PM

Network

LinkedIn is not any different than networking in person so you must practice the same principles that you should be practicing while networking in person.

Here are three thoughts that will help you to network effectively on LinkedIn.

  • It’s important that you invest your time well by making quality contacts and to focus your attention on eventually connecting with individuals who you would like to work with or help out in the future.  As a member of the LinkedIn community you will receive requests to connect from individuals who have no interest to connect other than to expand their LinkedIn rolodex.  If and when you receive a canned LinkedIn invitation, consider the intent of the sender and its long-term value to you.
  • Look for opportunities to provide value to other members of your group.  When you read online articles that you feel would benefit other members there is a pretty good chance that the article will include a LinkedIn share link that will be located at the beginning and/or the end of the article.  Click on the LinkedIn icon and LinkedIn will provide you with a pop up screen that will allow you to post the article to your profile page updates as well as to the groups that you belong to.  If you elect to post the article to your groups, you will have to check that box and start typing in the first few letter of the group name and that group will populate itself into the ‘Groups’ field.  When you are finished, click the ‘Share’ button and the article will be delivered.
  • Make sure that you think of others first before you think of yourself.  If you are perceived as a giver and not a taker you will eventually become a trusted resource to other members of your group.  There is nothing that will kill your reputation with members of your LinkedIn group quicker than if you are perceived as a taker.  Do yourself a favor and avoid putting yourself in this position.  There will be a time when you can deliver your pitch once you have established the right to do so.  You will know if and when that time comes.

Gather Intelligence

Before you decide to connect with an individual, visit their profile page and look for some indicators that can turn a cold connection into a warm one.

When you view an individual’s profile, you will see, among other things, current and previous employment, education, and a tab at the lower right-hand side of the profile called ‘Contact Info’.  When you click on that link, you may be surprised at the information that you have immediate access to such as email address, telephone number, other social media accounts, websites, etc.  Take advantage of this intelligence and use it wisely.

You will also unveil some important clues about the individual by reading through his ‘Background’, ‘Experience’, ‘Skills & Expertise’, ‘Recommendations’, ‘Connections’, ‘Groups’ and who he is ‘Following’ which are all included in his profile.  You can’t beat having this type of information at your disposal.  Understanding the value of this intelligence and knowing how to use it effectively is priceless.

Connect

When you decide to ask others to connect with you or to join your network, you can arrange an introduction through one of your extended connections or send a direct invitation to connect.  You will have a greater degree of success connecting with someone that you have never met through a warm introduction initiated through an existing connection.  Liken this method to asking for a favor and be prepared to reciprocate.

If you choose the latter, make sure that you do not use LinkedIn’s boilerplate invitation… “I’d like to add you to my professional network.”  This will almost assure you that your invitation will be rejected, especially from those whom you have never been in contact with before.  What will you accomplish with this approach?  Nothing.

Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 5.27.39 PM

Tip – If your intention is to connect with someone who is not connected through your extended connections consider this.

Locate that individual through a ‘People’ search.  Once you have found Mr. X, click on his link as provided in the search return and you will be sent to his profile page.  Since you are most likely not connected with him, you will see that his profile provides you with two options…‘Connect’ and ‘Send InMail’.  Since I will not be covering the details of either of these options, you can scroll down the page to see which ‘Groups’ he is connected with.  If you are lucky, he is a member of a Group that you belong to.  You can then go back to that Group, click on the ‘Members’ link located at the top left-hand side of the page, and type in his name in the search field.  You will then be delivered to his profile listing where, if he has elected to receive messages from other members of the group in his profile settings, you will be able to send him a direct message by clicking on the ‘Send message’ link at the far right-hand side of his profile.

Caution – Ask yourself if this is the right course of action for you to take.  If the answer is yes, you will need to provide a good reason why you are contacting him and that reason must be compelling enough for him to answer whatever call to action that you provide in your message or risk being perceived as a ‘spammer’ or just another salesperson.  The choice is clear.

Read Are Your LinkedIn Connection Intentions Disconnected?

Advanced Search

Like many search tools, you can search for any individual who is a member of LinkedIn by going to the upper right-hand corner of your profile page and in the ‘People’ field, type in the first and last name of the individual who you are trying to find.

In some cases you won’t know who the decision maker is within the XYZ Corporation so you will go to the same area of your profile page, choose ‘Companies’ from the drop down menu, and type in the company name.

If you cover the Pharma market, as an example, and want to target West Pharmaceutical Services, then type their name in the ‘Companies’ field.  If you cover the Pharma market and want to target other companies that are directly or indirectly related to this market, type in the work ‘Pharmaceutical’ in the ‘Companies’ field and you will have enough opportunities to mine over the next few weeks.

You can even go one step further.  In the same field, type in the name of the city where your hotel is located and all of the companies who have a profile on LinkedIn and are located in your city will appear in the search return.

Screen shot 2013-02-07 at 5.30.30 PM

Pretty slick?

In closing.  As a hotel sales manager, you should at least be ‘following’ your clients and their companies on LinkedIn.  Make sure that you stay in touch with your client connections through LinkedIn, send them valuable information through a direct message, and when the time is right, ask if they know someone who could utilize your services and book your hotel.

When you meet with a prospect for the very first time and shortly after you have sent him a thank you email, look him up on LinkedIn and invite him to connect.  You have his email address so you can use it when LinkedIn asks for some credible reason how you might be connected with this individual.

There are a number of tips and strategies that I did not include in this post because I want to hear what you’d like to add to this discussion.

LinkedIn is just one of the areas that I address in my new educational workshop for hotel sales managers called ‘Mapping the Course‘.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels grow their business and generate more revenue.

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Filed under LinkedIn, Sales Strategies

Front & Center Interview With Heather Turner – Forfeng Designs

Welcome to this edition of Front & Center, the show that features interviews with the best and brightest hospitality professionals and industry thought-leaders.

My guest today on Front & Center is Heather Turner, Founder of Forfeng Designs, a hospitality and marketing consulting company that provides a variety of services to clients both in and outside of the hospitality vertical.

Heather is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and has spent over 20 years in the restaurant business and has served as an Executive Chef over the past 8 years.

Heather writes a hospitality blog, Chefforfeng’s Weblog, is actively involved all of the major social media channels, and is a member of Toastmasters International.

Heather has been a guest speaker at B&B lodging conferences around the country and will be speaking at the upcoming Mid-Atlantic Innkeepers Conference March 10-12, 2013.

What you will learn when you listen to this interview with Heather:

  • Why hotels are behind the social media curve
  • Why a hotel’s hard sell is a turn off
  • Does lodging have to have a presence on social media
  • Does Google+ fit into the social media mix
  • What is one of the biggest misconceptions about using social media for lodging
  • What are the best tools and methods to get bookings on a limited marketing budget
  • Will Facebook continue to be an important marketing tool
  • What’s the best way to combat a bad guest review

I hope you enjoy listening to this interview with Heather Turner and welcome your thoughts about the areas that she addresses on this edition of Front & Center.

Here are some other sources for Heather Turner:

If you would like to appear on Front & Center, please forward your contact information and a brief overview of your subject matter to info@igroupadvisors.com and you will be contacted within 48 hours.

Tom Costello is the CEO and Managing Director of iGroupAdvisors, a performance improvement firm, that helps hotels grow their business and generate more revenue.

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Filed under Hotel Marketing, hotel strategies, LinkedIn, Social Media, Twitter