The Big Gamble: Commoditizing Hotel Group Sales

Djibouti - PASHA CASINO at Djibouti Palace Kempinski 

This post is by Dave Lutz, managing director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

I spent most of my career running one of the largest site selection companies in the country. I learned a ton about group sales and how customers buy.

I had the privilege to work with some of the best and most influential hotel sales professionals in the meeting and convention business. I am saddened to see companies send these sales folks careers off to pasture in favor of a new sales reorganization plan.

Group Sales Going Transactional

For years, many have claimed that the buying and selling of group business is a relationship sale. It is highly consultative, not transactional.

Now, there are several trends that are challenging that mindset:

1. More small meetings and thus more transactions.
2. Shorter booking windows.
3. Buyers’ adoption of procurement purchasing practices.
4. Buyers outsourcing site selection.
5. Consolidation of flags with more big chains managing multiple brands.
6. Hotels sold their souls to the OTA’s (Online Travel Agencies).

As these realities collide, some chains, led by Marriott, are reacting by reorganizing their on-property sales force into regional clusters. According to this Meetings & Conventions article (and my grapevine) Starwood is going down a similar path.

No longer does the hotel maintain a sufficient on-property sales team. Customer opportunities are now sold through regional sales offices that amount to nothing more than a lead processing center.

Regional clusters handle transactional responses. They sell across all company brands. They will have more inventory to improve their chances. Basically, it’s a model of throwing more RFP’s against the wall to see what sticks.

The Results And Tough Questions

Some hotels have cut on-property sales personnel by as much as 75%. This is a knee jerk to an overwhelming increase in RFP volume. I believe the end result will be: dramatically lowered close ratios.

• Are these chains heading in the right direction?
• Will personnel changes and lay-offs send some of these chains best and most loyal talent to the competition or to site selection firms?
• Will their relationships follow them?

What Sticks In My Craw

Here’s what really bothers me.

Less Leadership

Good on-property sales people are often inspirational leaders for hotel managers and staff. They serve as the property’s ambassadors. Clients benefit by having a trusted resource that can pull rabbits out of a hat. Who will fill this void? Convention Services and Catering professionals? Are hotel chains and owners making plans for that?

Less Creativity, More Laziness

If juggling other groups or leg work is required to make a piece of business work, regional sales folks are going to quickly jump to more available options in their portfolio. There is less fighting for what is in the best interest of the client or hotel owner.

Less Nimble

Less empowered staff decreases the ability to deliver quick answers regarding contractual issues, negotiations or property specific questions. This leads to increased response time for special requests. Business will go to the competition that is faster, more nimble and better at addressing these issues.

Squeaky Wheels And Selling Ugly Babies

If I own a 250-room suburban hotel (ugly baby), I may question who is selling and fighting for me on a daily basis. With fragmented hotel ownership, owner asset managers do a better job of making chains accountable. Expect an increase in squeaky wheels.

Total Account Management To Disintermediate

I think one of the main goals of these reorgs is to build closer relationships with the client’s organizations. Each chain wants to increase market share. They want to promote the benefits of direct bookings versus the use of third party site selection firms. In theory, it sounds like a good plan…if the relationships extend to the property level. And that’s a big if.

Factory Or Store Front?

Proponents of these reorgs claim that you don’t put sales people in the factory. When did hotels become factories? They’re store fronts! Stores without sales professionals must have a product that sells itself or offers deals that you can’t get elsewhere.

Time Will Tell

Some seasoned planners aren’t crazy about these changes. It’s a bit too early to tell if they will take their business to hotels where they have more trusted relationships.

Whether the regional sales cluster reorgs work or not will take time. In an up-market, the initial results may look good. In the long run, I think it’s going to mean even less brand loyalty.

How do you feel about the new regional sales clusters? Why do you think it will or won’t work successfully?

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  1. Timothy Arnold, CMP, CMM says:

    I hate the regional sales clusters with a passion. One good example is here in Dallas. I see the sales people from the hotels on a regular basis at MPI meetings and other industry events, but when I send them leads (even directly), they have to turn those over to regional sales cluster salespeople. So here I am working with people not at the hotel, but in totally different cities. Not the people who I have a good relationship with, but someone whom I have never met. When I want to schedule a site with a client, I have to go through the regional cluster person, who helps set things up with the hotel. The hotel sales person does not know my program, nor do they know who I am or who my clients are.
    In other markets, I send out leads to hotels, and the a regional sales person is assigned to work the lead for all of that company’s brands. Usually, they turn down all of the hotels except for one, and I have to go back to them to ask them to take another look at it.
    I think it is telling for this brand, that I have never booked a single dime of business at any of their regional cluster hotels. The last three of four contracts I have done with their hotels have all been with a salesperson on site, whom I have been able to build a nice relationship and rapport with. But I am booking plenty with Starwood, Gaylord, and Hilton, because of the strong relationships I have curried over the years. This other brand says that their clients want to buy that way with one single point of contact, but I have yet to meet one single meeting planner who like regional cluster selling or thinks it is anything other than a way to eliminate hotel sales jobs, and try to make buying group hotel rooms the same as buying beans in bulk from Sam’s Club.
    In case I was not clear, when it comes to group hotel rooms – I HATE REGIONAL SALES CLUSTER SELLING

  2. Ken Sien says:

    As a third party, this change has been tougher for me than the old model. I have found myself dealing with cluster representatives that are not as knowledgeable about specific property details. I continue to ask other planners who do not use third parties what they think of this new sales model. I have yet to meet anyone who likes the change. I agree that only time will tell if this philosophy will work. Based on what I have seen so far, I am not sure it will.

  3. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Tim and Ken, thanks for commenting!

    I find it real interesting that both of you work for significant 3rd parties and are experiencing difficulty with this model. Over 30% of all group business is coming from site selection outsourcing. That channel alone is a huge gamble. I actually think clustering makes sense for most groups of 100 on peak or less.

    Lets hope more planners voice their concerns and opinions so chains can make the right moves.

  4. Tracy Stuckrath CSEP, CMM, CHC says:

    I don’t like them either. Our industry is built on relationships and rapport, as Ken mentioned. The regional system is very impersonal. I recently called a sales manager friend at a local property to say I was coming to her hotel to attend an event and would love to catch up. Her voicemail said that she no longer worked there (maybe that she was regional), to leave a message and someone from regional would get back to me. I never heard from anyone, even leaving a message to ask to see my friend. I also hit “0” to get the operator and was transferred nowhere.

    And, my experience with national sales managers is the same and this regional model. They send your RFP to the properties, tell/ask them to submit a proposal and then leave it up to the client to negotiate directly with the property. Why could I not just go to the property in the first place?

    I understand and appreciate the national model of watching and managing a client’s spend across all properties. It helps the client build stronger buying power, but the hotel’s tracking systems need to be updated instead of getting rid of the sales teams.

    Property sales managers are VERY familiar with their property and are there to understand your needs, your wants and your program. They become part of your team. They are there to make sure everything goes right – relationship managers.

  5. Great comments and I must say this subject is one that I absolutely am not in favor of. After being an Event Organizer for an organization for 35 years, and now with my own company, it truly is about relationships and the years of networking I have created. I want someone that I can trust, someone that knows my market and even someone that can pronounce my name correctly. Sounds silly I know but I have had numerous situations with Marriott and Drury Inn where I was being asked to deal with someone in Regional Sales and I just refused. With Drury Inn there was no one on site to assist with my event – I was told to call the GM if I needed to change anything at the last minute. Really? I can easily do without the luncheons, amenities and any other perk offered to meeting planners, I want a Sales Person that I can trust, have candid discussions with and one who will understand my needs. I want assurance that I have obtained the best offer and contract that I can negotiate and it all starts with the formed relationship! I want a Sales Person who knows my history and my groups. With that I’ll come back! Without it – I will in all honesty look elsewhere….this is no secret to them. I’m very upfront with my opinion. Loyalty is a benefit to both suppliers and planners.

  6. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Tracey, thanks for your comment! You bring up an interesting point…these changes likely haven’t been communicated well enough to the clients to hand-off existing relationships and keep the flow of business going.

    Even though National Sales models pass along RFP’s, I’m high on that model when the National Salesperson can help broker the deal by leveraging their relationship and trust with you, along with guidance to the property on what it will take to win.

    @Karen, GM’s of the small to mid-sized properties are going to get real stretched! I participated in the Pharma Conference this week. One major Pharma company representative categorically said that if you aren’t with one of their three preferred chains, your not going to get any of their business.

    My take is that major corporations (like Pharma) have bought into procurement models that do serve the whole, but aren’t necessarily best for individual meetings and some of the hotel’s portfolio. These models favor the client’s ugly babies along with reducing transaction time and risk.

    Hotel ownership is very different than the airlines. Decent meetings that fill a hole stand on their own merit. Independent and small hotels need to be more accepting of terms and conditions that have been blessed by the major chains. That will help them steal share.

  7. Eric Eden says:

    Dave, you make great points. I think it is still a challenging time for hotels.
    Some of the trends that are driving the regional focus are:

    1. Planners are doing fewer on site visits because of the cost of the trips and time out of the office.

    2. More companies are assigning staff that are not full time planners. And full time planners are asked to do the work of several people.

    3. With online channels planners are focused more on dates and rates. We saw a planner “blast” an RFP to 100 hotels for 10 room nights, and meeting space for 25 people. The meeting was 6 months out. Unfortunately, that is not an isolated incident, something we don’t think that is good for the industry.

    Planners are under pressure but hotels are feeling it too. And in fairness hotels have to react to these and other trends. For the 10,000 meeting hotels does it make sense to have sales people at every property if few planners are doing site visits? Hotels need some efficiency to reduce duplicate leads with the blasting approach some planners take by sending leads through every channel they can trying to get the best deal. Hotels are under pressure to be responsive to millions of inquiries a year, which is really hard with a distributed sales team.

    I have to agree itis hard for planners to work with regional hotel staff who can’t answer details in many cases. It is not ideal. Times are still tough and I think there are ways, through education, planners and hotels can reach compromise. Everyone can be more efficient and win-win scenarios can happen. Here is hoping things evolve that way.

  8. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Eric, thanks for sharing your insight! No question that RFP overload is a symptom that needs a cure. More than anything, hotels need to do a much better job of disqualifying opportunities. One filter can and should be how many other facilities have been sent the RFP. If, as a hotel, you know your chances of closing are less than 1 out of 10, you’re wise to either bow out or submit a standard response.

    Going the cluster route, hotels are basically giving up and embracing a transactional model where they’ll be one of many on a grid. I really believe that while planners submit comparisons in that way, decisions are made based on attributes that extend beyond the grid. A knowledgeable sales person needs to help articulate and customize those by opportunity.

    It’s my hope that solutions like Cvent will aid hotels in qualifying where they should spend their proactive efforts to win incremental and substantial group opportunities. That’s the Holy Grail!

  9. Mike Burns says:

    I have been on both sides of the fence and can’t help but think that in time the Regional Clusters as a NSO model can be successful. Currently there seems to a lot of people who were forced into these roles kicking and screaming with their customers support resisting this change. I agree with everyone’s comment that this model will never work if the people selling the products lack the product knowledge or passion to do what it takes to close the business. And it will also fail miserably if one of the major intents as I heard suggested is to compete or replace the third party world to avoid paying those compensation/distrubtion fees. Time will tell…in the meantine book chains or independent hotels that haven’t adopted this practice.

  10. Noel says:

    The worst part of this model is that they are losing seasoned; passionate sales professional who take pride in the work they have done! And replacing them with fresh out of college newbies that have never worked in a hotel – and turned the sales force into a call center. Yet, the client still has to deal with 3-4 people from start to contract because no one is held accountable. Rarely is there a sale person at the hotel – it’s the catering sales person and a sales assistant (at most). The GM is the property point person, but they are not allowed to directly contact the sales person at the regional office to discuss business.

    1. Dave Lutz says:

      Noel, thanks for the comment! Are you finding this scenario playing out at small to mid-sized hotels only or large one’s too?

  11. Bill1981 says:

    First, the SFO system is setup for failure and here is why:

    1) Marriott let go of some of its TOP Sales people during the switch to Sales Force One. As a result, their reactive sales force consistently goes through high turn-over and can only higher Sales Managers directly out of college with very low MRP’s compared to the competition. Marriot will never advertise bad press, but kind of hard to stop the bleeding with the sweat shop implemented for reactive sales folks. The sales manager job use to have sales managers on property dedicated and loyal to the success of each hotel. Now they outsource all these calls to a regional sales office. There are those sales managers that Marriott kept on property who handle 300+ room nights and it would of course be too risky to outsource 300+ peak to a sweat shop. Let’s just think about this. You own a hotel, you have had loyalty with one account, and then all the sudden this same account is 2 miles down the road at another competing Marriott? Trust me, some Marriott’s get more attention over others because quite frankly they can be easier to book even though another property is available.

    2) You got to understand the new sweat shop Marriott has created. You might as well chain yourself to your desk if you are a reactive sales manager. Perhaps the Area Account Executives have it better since they have become road warriors visiting different meeting and travel planners – however they have their own challenges being proactive and I am sure you have Area Directors who are still figuring out their own job descriptions. Sweat Shop = Sales Force One. Sales Managers use to sell for individual hotels based on a parameter of room nights (10 to 100) etc and they were very customer savvy and knew their hotel very well. The new sales force one model has everyone in a cubical taking 40 to 50 calls per day eventually leading to each sales manager burning out within a year. Don’t expect these people to know each hotel in and out. Sell 16 hotels for Marriott at one time, or book a large event at one of these 16 hotels depending on your pod… You know how this goes to those who understand the system. I guarantee Marriott customers get less service as a result of being passed on to an area account executive / Vice Versa for a tour or to someone else on property. The competitors thrive on this and I can’t begin to tell you how many times Travel Managers say how much they hate this. General Managers and Owners must hate this… then again you can’t really say anything bad about Marriott when you work for them because then you will be an outcast right? Let’s see, we have an opportunity to book 125 RN for 5 nights and their 4 Marriott’s nearby to each other – does each hotel really have a fair shot at getting the program or placing a bid? There is a difference between having sales managers loyal to your hotel and this new system SFO.

    3) So we all know that it would be cheaper for Marriott to outsource their reactive sales force to China, right? It’s a thought. After all, it would be less expensive for Marriott, but at this point there is no difference based on the job description of someone working in a regional sales office. Its amazing at all this money Marriott has invested into a failed system. Marriott can’t really turn back what they have already done. You know, Mr. Marriott always said if you treat your associates good, then they will treat the guest good. How is taking a super star sales managers out of their hotels that their loyal to selling, and placing them all in a cubical to work in a sweat shop where you have to press aux 8 on your phone just to go to the bathroom and your required to put out 12 contracts and take 50 calls per day?!?! I digress.

    4) To all Marriott Sales folks reading this
    – You have a couple options. The competition will offer you something substantially better and you will advance a lot faster. It is pretty incredible how coveted Marriott employees are and you have more opportunity with other hotels then your current company unfortunately. Marriott does have a terrific training program and the competition knows this and thrives on acquiring Marriott talent. Marriott is not everything, and I guarantee you will move up the ranks a lot faster than sticking with this brutal SFO system. If you disagree, that’s your opinion & life.

    For the record, this is the inside looking out.

  12. Noel says:

    This is happening at all Marriott brands. A sales manager is handling full service and select service properties. The only one that don’t have this are the franchise properties. It’s a joke – and now they are realizing it is messed up but won’t admit it. They say that is working great and they want to make it better by creating Desination Sales Managers that will cover one or 2 hotels and be on site, but they don’t even have a job description that is defined — they are basically the “Sales B**tch” and no power or control.

  13. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Bill, wow this topic really hit a nerve for you too, huh? For employee retention, it’s so important to feel like (and be recognized for)making a difference. That’s hard to do when you are an order taker vs. outselling the competition.

    Thanks for adding your opinion!

  14. Bill says:

    In the Sales Force One model you lose the ability to think, be creative, and ultimately turn into a transactional order-taker.

    Mr. Marriott, please don’t ever say that if you treat your associates good, then they will treat the guest good. Sales Managers on property made you millions in sales, we were loyal, created relational assets for you, and you threw all of us on property sales managers into a call center! Don’t worry, all your best sales managers are now with the competitors motivated by your arrogance taking market-share from your largest producing hotels.

  15. Jenny says:

    I have never met a meeting planner that likes regional clusters. Hotels that go this route will lose in long run. Actually, they are losing right now.

  16. Bill1981 says:

    Bill Marriott recently said that customers want to buy through regional sales clusters oppose to property sales managers. Is this really how meeting planners and organizations that plan group room nights want to buy? I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on this. Thanks

    1. Dave Lutz says:

      Bill, I’m hearing a couple different perspectives from planners.

      1) Most seasoned planners that book larger and more important programs, definitely want a relationship. They prefer when that exists at both the National and property level. They’re usually OK if it’s just at the national level with someone that will fight hard for them. When the cluster person responds to them in transactional methods, it’s a huge turn-off for both the opportunity and the brand.

      2) Planners who are sourcing smaller programs that need to be confirmed quickly usually like the cluster model. They can get multiple options quickly with one contact. Marriott’s model appears to be working for the short-term, less important programs. Incremental revenue is good, but the relationship for re-booking is not optimized.

      Does this match what you’re hearing/seeing?

  17. Bill says:


    You are right on the money.

    The entire sales culture has changed for the worst. The Marriott brand has taken a step back in the wrong direction. Bill Marriott seems to be drinking that same Kool Aide. Oddly enough, every Marriott Sales office has extremely high turnover- most less then a year. This has not changed since it was implemented in 2007 and sames goes for all other sales office clusters.

    It takes 18 months literally just to learn the region of hotels you are selling and booking. Try asking questions to one of these sales managers who have 18 cheat sheets at there fingertips for answering questions. The competitive advantages are now with Marriott’s competitors.

    I would be interested to hear from hotel ownership & principals on the new system having experienced it over the last 5 years.

  18. MarriottSurvivor says:

    The MArriott “Sales One” plan is not only ridiculous, but has already sent owners into an open revolt since they are now basically paying to fund their competitor’s sales teams. My guess is that Management contracts will disappear quickly over time.

    Sales One was implemented by Dave Marriott, son of CEO Bill. Dave is really amazingly dumb, if his names wasn’t Marriott he never would have made it past front desk manager. How dumb? He thinks that his last name didn’t help him become Senior VP Sales, that somehow he got the job age 34 after being a salesman in Boston for 4 years. As Senior VP Sales, Dave Marriott implemented Sales One and watched sales tank. What a total failure, they had to give him a face-saving job as a regional VP….

    First thing I did on leaving Marriott was sell every last share. It was easy to make money during the hotel boom, but dumb companies like Marriott will suffer a lot during the downtime. They have a great product, but fail to make things simple, especially there new sales processes.

    Sales One should be studied at business schools an example of how a bubble corporate culture can cause companies to commit harakiri. The scheme began as Sales 2000, which had two goals, one positive, one negative:
    1) to create regional b2b sales teams, like the reactive sales teams in Woburn, Mass., Newark NJ, Miami, etc. This actually worked in that corporate travel managers and meeting planers had one number that would negotiate all the regional Marriotts for them and find the best deal for both customer and individually property as “stakeholder.”
    2) also, Sales 2000 was a plan by Sorenson and COO Bill Shaw to get rid of older sales managers and hire cheaper younger ones (lawsuit San Fran federal court, so you can check.) Between 2001-2006 they managed to layoff, fire, or exasperate into resignation many of their most talented sales managers, who, guess what, went directly to competitors and took their Rolodex with them.

    Believing that the hotel boom was somehow a product of Bill Marriott’s genius–rather than of macroeconomic forces–Marriott built and built and put young and very marginal people in charge of sales at both property and regional level. Masked by the general hotel-REIT boom, this scheme seemed to work for about one year, 2006.

    In 2007 we reach Sales One, being the next step in Sales 2000. Bill Marriott, David Rodriguez and Arne Sorenson are allergic to payroll and always looking to ways to get rid of people. It bothered Mr. Marriott no end that each individual Marriott-managed property had its own Director of Sales, Catering Sales Manager, etc. Arne felt that “Marriott was competing against itself” because sales managers from different hotels were competing against one another in the same markets.

    Sales One is an attempt to trim payroll by appointing one or two directors of sales for any local group of 6-12 properties, leaving only inexpensive high school dropout “sales assistants” at each property. Dave Marriott, Stephanie Luntz, Paul Goslin and a few others were put in charge of implementing the plan.

    Dave is really clueless, dumb beyond words, but his name is Marriott, so nobody (including me) dared speak against the fundamental flaw in the program: Each hotel is typically owned by a different owner; Owner X is now paying for the sales team working for Owner Y. “Area Directors” as they’re called, have an inherent conflict of interest in that they will always prefer to sell a high-rev Ritz-Carlton or Renaissance over a Courtyard or a Fairfield. Why should the owners of a Courtyard pay for Ritz-Carton sales team? How is corruption and favoritism avoidable in such a scheme? Add to that the fact that penny-pinching Rondriguez and Sorenson fired the best (and most compensated) sales people, and you have a potential owner’s revolt in the making.

    All of these problems were masked when the market was booming, and by Bill Marriott’s skill at persuading sycophantic GMs that the whole crazy scheme was actually a stroke of divinely-inspired genius that would help individual property revenues.

  19. MarriottSurvivor says:

    Marriott’s “Sales Force One” Condemned by Owners across the United States

    A lawsuit filed Tuesday by a longtime Marriott hotel owner seeks $20 million in damages, claiming Marriott’s newly revamped sales structure has cost it business.

    In the suit, the owner of a 3-year-old, $52 million Residence Inn in Alexandria, Va., says that the hotel’s sales have been “abysmal” despite its convenient location in suburban Washington D.C., new amenities and guest rooms, and ample meeting space.

    The suit alleges that Marriott is to blame, because it recently revamped its sales force and outsourced the function to regional sales offices.

    The lawsuit was filed by MG-Carlyle Hotel, LLC, an affiliate of , which is a Denver-based real estate company that has owned various Marriott hotels over the last 30 years. It says cites other hotel operators have also seen negative consequences from the sales revamp.

    It’s possible that the suit may serve as a “wake-up call” for owners of other Marriott-brand hotels that may be seeing similar results, says lawyer William Brewer of Bickel & Brewer, the firm that’s representing Miller Global in this suit.

    In addition to $20 million in damages, the suit also seeks an order requiring Marriott to pay back millions of dollars of management fees and other money that Marriott was paid while allegedly violating its management agreement with the owner.

    The lawsuit sheds light on Marriott’s new sales structure – dubbed “Sales Force One” – and questions how well it is working for hotel owners. Sales Force One was the name of Marriott’s sweeping sales reorganization that it began phasing in nationally in December 2007.

    The lawsuit alleges:

    “That single program has decimated most of the sales efforts undertaken by the hotels themselves. It has ceded responsibility for generating group, meeting, and transient business to employees whose loyalties lie not with individual hotels, but with Marriott itself.”

    Other owners have complained across the country.

    This isn’t the first time that a hotel operator has noted problems with the new system, the suit says.

    In May 2010, a group of seven companies that represents 350 hotels – including Miller Global, Thayer Lodging, Ashford Hospitality and Apple REIT – sent a letter to Marriott, asking the giant to suspend further adoption of Sales Force One until “flaws and inefficiencies can be corrected,” according to the letter obtained by Hotel Check-In.

    The letter also told Marriott problems that the operators were seeing at their Marriott-brand hotels such as loss of market share and financial impact believed “to be in the millions of dollars as a result of Sales Force One.”

    This specific lawsuit charges that Marriott’s in violation of its 30-year management agreement with the hotel owner by phasing in Sales Force One and eliminating on-site sales staff critical to the success of each individual hotel.

    Among the suit’s allegations:

    The new sales structure essentially prevents the owner’s Residence Inn from gaining greater market share of Marriott-brand hotel business by limiting competition among Marriott-brand hotels.

    The owner charges Marriott with fraud by encouraging the owner to sign a management agreement in 2006 that includes an on-site position of “director of sales,” despite Marriott’s intention to revamp its sales structure.

    The lawsuit says that Miller Global would not have signed on with Marriott for the Residence Inn property in question had it known about the sales revamp.

  20. Elizabeth Cherwin says:

    I really love the sweat shop comment because I actually used to work in a regional sales office and we often commented on how we felt like slave labor. You have people booking over 5,000,000 a year but yet they are not making their goals. Well, if you are making a nice 6 digit figure, that might be ok. But making 85K total with bonus to book 6-8 million? And the fact that when you finally work your way up the company and become a Senior Sales Manager, they opt NOT to pay you for your lunch and make you clock in and out so that you have to be at work almost 11 hours a day to make your salary. It is sad what happened because before this transformation, people felt important. After the transformation, everyone was just a number booking a number. I hope that the company as a whole can return to their values and fix the issues.

    1. Dave Lutz says:

      Thanks for adding your comments Elizabeth! Kind of bazaar that a sales person would need to clock in and out. Usually sales people (and management) are categorized as exempt and shouldn’t be doing any clocking. Are you now qualified for overtime pay or is it more about time tracking?

  21. Anonymous says:

    Hello, I found this article while researching the effect that Sales Force One is having on Marriott business.
    Why was I researching this? Because we (Marriott HQ employees) just got word that staff is going to be cut across all departments. Why are they doing this? Because we are losing market share and Marriott is telling their employees that it is because our brand is too expensive for owners.

    No one is asking the question “When did this happen?”
    Marriott has always been a little more expensive than their competitors yet the bottom line always made it worth while, however now that bottom line is getting smaller and smaller. Your article points out exactly why that is happening. SF1 has been a huge disappointment (see the outstanding lawsuit against the company from an owner in Va.)
    and instead of adjusting to this, they are digging an even deeper hole by preparing to lose even more talent and Marriott experience.

  22. Denise D says:

    Let me start off by saying that the conditions working at the Marriott Regional Sales Office are better than what the sweatshops had, but let’s be honest to ourselves here, the situations are very similar.

    Now back in the early 1900’s children, women, and men worked in these sweat shops since there were no child labor laws and it was acceptable. These days, its men, women, and young professionals working at Marriott who find themselves trying to make a living in non-desirable Marriott Regional Sales Office Call Center positions.

    I previously managed one of Marriott’s Regional Sales Office Centers and was very excited to lead the office. I was certainly not expecting Sales Force One to create a very assembly-line like sales process which it did while eliminating the sales function from the property level. Not exactly a perfect formula. For a young college graduate, 34k per year actually sounds like a bargain the way things are in this economy, but at one time this wasn’t even a consideration.

    Let me be brutally clear in the fact that the Marriott Regional Sales Office Sales Center might not have the physical labor some jobs have and I do feel for those professionals, but the design of a call center and factory are basically the same thing. You have the assembly-line or call center cubicles/desks, the supervisor or factory manager like myself when I was there, and the phone calls or materials to assemble keep on coming in non-stop. Remember, 15 hotels are being handled by 5-6 sales associates handling groups for these 15 hotels where before Sales Force One the standard was having sales on the property level- a real win for Marriott financially $$$ VS those funds going to franchise owners. There are the occasional breaks in the Marriott Regional Sales Office Centers and yes you clock in and out.

    I might seem like I’m complaining but don’t take this as a complaint, it is more of an observation for consideration as the company is one of the most political organizations you will ever work for. Trust me, I know after 20+ years. The similarities of the Regional Sales Offices are shockingly similar for those who have never considered it before, and in reality even the foreigners with the booming economies are going through it with their massive call centers.

    Mr. Marriott’s Hot Shoppes was an entire assembly approach and he simply is using the same concept for the Marriott sales model consolidating the sales function- getting more for less. I would of let Arnie be my shield and step down from being the CEO too if I were in Mr. Marriott’s shoes given his Sales Force One plan. I guess the value of a person is nothing at the Marriott Regional Sales Office Call Center since Marriott associates are now highly replaceable with another person willing to take that job in the sweatshop, for that pay, and will do what it robotically takes to get the job done.

    Nobody in their right mind can claim or deny that working in the Marriott Regional Sales Center is not a dead-end, dreary, boring, and highly repetitive- soulless in nature, it is 100% just that. I cannot imagine how Marriott Sales associates I use to manage put themselves thru this kind of mind-numbing work. You might as well hire ROBOTS for what sales associates do in the Marriott Regional Sales Office, they are more efficient and can work 24/7 non-stop. Next time you see a power point presentation or earnings report, don’t let people tell you otherwise as Sales Force One was the destruction of the Sales Manager to client relationship and brand.

  23. Stacy says:

    Prior to the launch of Sales Force One, relational capital (Sales/Managers/Director of Sales on property) were the ultimate bridge that connected Marriott with both success and significance.

    It’s important to note the very radical changes Marriott has experienced since 2007 and the effects this has caused to its sales force. The question that must be asked if you are a sales person caught up in this system (if your new or still at Marriott) is dependent on how eager you are or your ambitions to be a Director of Sales (a position that no longer is in existence at Marriott)? One must truly ask themselves what the next step after working in a call center would be for themselves or is there even options for upward mobility?? Is your goal to manage others working in the same call center? Generally, one would think that the size of the problems you are capable of solving determines your overall value rather then being a replaceable call center agent. Options to grow unfortunately at Marriott from a sales discipline are limited given Sales Force One.

    A good majority of Marriott’s Sales Force and Sales Leadership have left the company to work elsewhere. Marriott invested a great deal of time, money, and training on sales people prior to 2007 and now the relational capital (Sales Managers / Directors of Sales) Marriott once had and retained evidently are working for competitors who know exactly how to sell against Marriott given all their new hires from Marriott. As everyone knows, noise from ownership and franchises disliking Sales Force One ultimately created Destination Sales Managers on property for managed hotels. Perhaps this new role will put a face on each hotel. I do commend Marriott for actually putting one person at each of their properties to give their hotels some sort of life.

    To conclude, the synergy each Marriott hotel created when it previously had a property sales team will never exist as it once did given the financially damaging effects Sales Force One had on the company. One would hope Marriott would reevaluate their principals and revert back to what actually made them successful having property sales teams who handle 75+ peak groups for each market segment and a dedicated business travel sales person on each individual property. The benefits of a property sales team extend to all departments of a hotel. As a planner, I don’t think of a call center, I think of individual people on the property level when I buy.

  24. FormerDOSM says:

    This article hits home for me. I was eliminated due to Sales Force One. I worked proudly for Marriott in Crystal City for over 10 years and was a loyal Marriott on property Director of Sales & Marketing managing a great sales team. Sales Force One to me really means eliminating your entire sales force on property, hiring new people at lower wages, and outsourcing the function of the sales discipline.

    As this post clearly indicates, Sales Force One happened in 2007 eliminating property DOSM’s and Sales jobs across Marriott. Obviously, sales managers and directors were upset having no input on the Sales Force One strategy. Director of Sales on each property at Marriott gave so many years working there hearts out for a company they respected and thought would take care of them rewarding performance. Instead, most on property Director of Sales and Sales managers were eliminated or sent to a call center or left using their office as cars due to a major consolidation of the Marriott Sales Force.

    Marriott Sales Managers and Director of Sales still find it shocking that there is little problem getting sales positions elsewhere with competitors who are happy accepting Marriott trained sales individuals. Working for the competition gave a lot of us former Marriott sales associates over the last 5 years post sales force one motivation to wake up every day and outsell Marriott who dropped us all on our head. My respected sales colleagues around the United States within a year found opportunities elsewhere outside of Marriott that were more attractive and fruitful. I know I did. Regional sales jobs with Marriott competitors seem to still be more attractive even now in 2012/2013.

    Thank you for posting such a great article. This post was a really good read and explains in great detail exactly what happened. A lot of us former Marriott Sales Directors and Managers who were eliminated due to Sales Force One would not be where we are today being promoted and thriving with the competition without the stupidity of Marriott’s Sales Force One strategy.

  25. Dave Lutz says:

    Thom, thanks for swinging by and adding your experience to the discussion. This post was inspired by sales leaders and professionals that made a difference, like you! Hope you continue to thrive at Choice.

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