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Indecent proposals can adversely affect margins and revenues

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“No kidding”, Jenny blurted out, laughing loudly. “It all makes sense and the culprits are right in front of us.” Our sales reps never tire of telling this story. 

Jenny is a senior brand executive at Iconic, a well respected, century-old, luxury hospitality brand. Over the last decade, the management at Iconic embarked on aggressive growth by acquiring some of the best hotels, resorts and landmark destinations around the world. Their strategy was to curate these iconic (no pun intended) properties, upgrade the brand experience and greatly improve the operating margins. The strategy was sound, the executives have experienced dealmakers, Iconic had a great reputation and the banks were eager to lend.

While the market share and revenue grew, the operating margins did not budge. This was bad news. The debt accumulated from acquisitions was supposed to be serviced by the higher operating margins that never materialized. Iconic hired well-known management consultants to pinpoint the problem.  

The Sales team is looking at Jenny with dismay as the Sales had dropped drastically

After six months of financial, operational and market review, their report was straightforward: Retail and corporate block sales were on par with the competition and the margins were low-to-medium just like the rest of the industry. No surprises here. More importantly, the revenue on Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibition (MICE) sales had not risen at all, despite significant investments in upgrading the brand experience at each of the newly acquired properties. The acquisition strategy had depended greatly on improved profitability on the high margin MICE sales to service the debt. The key conclusion was that the new investments in a better brand experience had not resulted in increased revenues or margins.

All eyes turned to Jenny. She was responsible for delivering the premium brand experience and differentiation that should have helped sales command premium pricing despite a competitive marketplace. Jenny sprung to action. She and her team surveyed each property to make sure that there was no lapse in the premium experience. No problem there. She met with the marketing and sales team at each of these properties and two things emerged:

  • The win rate on MICE deals was unusually low. 
  • Almost every winning deal required severe discounting.

Did the new investments fail to deliver the premium brand experience? Did the sales team need better training? Had the market changed? Jenny was left with lots of questions with no clear answers as she traveled from one property to another.

On one of her last such visits, in an emerging market, Jenny met with Grace, the local marketing manager. To her surprise, Jenny did not see the familiar doom and gloom surrounding other sales and marketing teams. Their win rate on MICE deals was twice that of other properties. The sales team rarely discounted their pricing. Jenny was curious and tried to find out what was different. The brand experience was on par with all other properties. The experience of the sales team was similar to their colleagues at other properties. The competition was not much different. This is when she turned to Grace to find out what might they be doing differently compared to the other teams.

Grace introducing Jenny to Zoomifier’s impressive Sales enablement software

With a cryptic smile, Grace led Jenny to her office and demonstrated how their marketing and sales team used Zoomifier to prepare, present and deliver MICE proposals. Unlike the sales proposals that she had seen in the past, this one was visually spectacular. Instead of text-heavy documents, this proposal recreated and reinforced the luxury brand experience a customer would experience at the property. Jenny loved the proposal but, not being much of a technophile, was not sure how a piece of software could make a difference that huge investments in property upgrades had failed to achieve. 

When she returned to her office at headquarters, Jenny called Zoomifier to learn more. After listening to her questions, the Zoomifier sales rep explained a typical MICE buyer’s customer journey and how sales teams self-inflict handicaps when delivering proposals to these buyers.

Zoomifier’s Sales representative explaining Jenny the challenges with Sales proposals and how to overcome them using Zoomifier

“As you know, the buyer’s journey isn’t as simple as visiting your property, being impressed with your facilities and making an instantaneous decision.“, the sales rep began the explanation. “Instead, it is a long and winding journey that starts with online discovery, followed by visits to multiple competing options where every sales team highlights their key differentiators and premium experiences.” 

The sales rep paused to see if Jenny agreed with him and then continued, “At the end of this journey, as your prospects get closer to making a decision, their memories of your property are blurred and they have completely mixed up your premium, luxury experience with that of all your competitors.”

“So, winning a MICE deal comes down to a faint memory of the buyer and your sales proposal!”, the sales rep smiled as he concluded the first part of his explanation.

“Okay, I get that the customer is overwhelmed and confused by the time they have visited multiple venues. So how does a proposal overcome this challenge?”Jenny asked.

The sales rep gave a detailed explanation of how the Iconic sales team spends significant time and effort scavenging relevant images and video clips from various online and social media sites, building a generic proposal document with tiny images and low-resolution videos, converting it into a PDF and then sending it out as an email to the prospect.

“The buyer receives a number of such plain vanilla proposals.” said the sales rep, concluding the explanation. “Unable to fully recall the premium and differentiated experience of your brand, they resort to commoditizing it by using pricing discounts as the most significant decision criteria.”

“I can see why, desperate to remain engaged and not lose the deal, our sales team starts hinting at potential discounts,” whispered Jenny, as if explaining to herself.  

“There you have it,” said the sales rep, wrapping up. “It is the little things like using Word and PowerPoint to prepare proposals, using PDFs and emails to deliver those proposals, and scattered content requiring tremendous time and effort to curate, that result in loss of high value and high margin MICE deals”.

This is when Jenny blurted out, “No kidding”.

The Zoomifer sales rep proceeded to demonstrate how a salesperson can easily build a highly personalized, rich media proposal that reinforces their brand experience. He then shared the proposal with Jenny from Zoomifier. She opened it on her mobile phone and was amazed to see how well it reinforced their premium brand experience. While she was viewing the proposal, the sales rep got a notification that she had viewed it on his mobile phone. He clicked on the notification and showed his phone’s screen to Jenny. Her jaw dropped!

“Are you telling me that every time our sales team sends out a proposal, they will know who viewed it and how much time they spent looking at it?”Jenny asked in disbelief. 

The sales rep nodded. “Not only that but the system will continue to engage the prospect, nurturing and reinforcing your brand experience, upselling and cross-selling, on behalf of the salesperson until they finalize their decision,” he added.

Jenny was convinced about the benefits of Zoomifier. However, being a cautious person, she selected two additional properties to pilot the solution and measure success. Grace and her sales team shared their best practices and mentored new users. 

The success was evident within a quarter. The sales team was comfortable with the new tool in about two weeks and reported reduced time spent preparing proposals. They were excited to narrate anecdotes about how the analytical insights helped them successfully propose certain cross-sells that they would have not suggested otherwise. There were beginning to see improved win rates.

Not wanting to waste any more time, Jenny reached out to the CEO and presented a business case to deploy Zoomifier across all their properties. She created an advisory board from among the users at the first three properties to communicate the benefits of the new solution to their colleagues at other properties. Zoomifier partnered with Iconic to ensure rapid and frictionless user adoption. 

Iconic continues to progressively improve their margins. The growth strategy is working and the executive teams are on the hunt to acquire new properties.

Note: Pseudonyms have been used to protect client confidentiality.

To learn more about how you can improve MICE sales performance, please contact us or call us at +1 800 255 5303.

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