Breakfast of Sales Champions

This past weekend, several members of my family and I were in Orange, Texas (a small town about 110 miles east of Houston) to attend my brother’s wedding. We stayed at a Holiday Inn Express just off I-10. While the property is a budget hotel designed primarily for business travelers, you would have thought we were VIP’s staying at a Ritz-Carlton based on the way we were treated.

When we checked in, Anna—the front desk clerk—upgraded us to suites. Wow! Talk about creating a great first impression! During our stay, every request was met quickly and courteously. Every person we encountered was helpful and friendly, with a big smile on their faces.

The highlight, though, came as we were leaving. At breakfast the day before our departure, I asked Pat—the woman who oversees the hotel’s food service—what time the breakfast buffet would open the following morning. She told me that since it was a Sunday, the buffet would be open by 6:30. I mentioned we’d have to miss it because we had to leave by 6 in order to get to Houston in time for our flights.

When our family assembled downstairs at the 6 the next morning, we were greeted by the sight of Pat standing by the breakfast buffet with a triumphant smile on her face. She had opened the buffet a half-hour early just for us! She wanted to make sure we had something to eat for our long drive. After loading ourselves up with breakfast sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, muffins, fruit and coffee, we thanked Pat profusely and headed out, happy and grateful.

As a professional speaker, I travel a lot. Which means I stay in a lot of hotels. Over the years, I’ve rarely experienced such tremendous service at hotels charging three times what this property does. Service like this creates an indelible memory. It creates word-of-mouth buzz. And it causes customers to return. (You can bet the next time any of us visit my brother and his new wife, we’re staying at the Holiday Inn Express.)

Like many industries, the hotel business has grown increasingly commoditized over the years. Nearly every chain promises the same things: clean rooms, comfortable beds, hot breakfasts, wireless internet access, etc. What distinguishes one company from another is not the features it offers, but the people it employs. Their skills, knowledge and attitudes make more of an impact on your customers than any features you advertise. So it’s critical that you hire people with great attitudes, provide them with frequent training and reward their efforts to serve customers.

Just as breakfast is the most important meal of the day, people are the most important element of a company. And not just salespeople, but everyone: receptionists, technicians, customer service agents, drivers, security guards, and yes, breakfast buffet managers.