Does Anyone Know a Good Interpreter?

Creating Common Language Between CVB Senior Sales Executives and Data Analysts

“Data, data and more data-the most valuable currency in hospitality.” Carson Booth, SnapShot CEO and veteran technology expert, former global vice president of property technology at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, expresses what I know so many of us are feeling.  The game has shifted and the focus on metrics and performance through the analysis of data is front and center.  

While I am not a subject matter expert on data, I am a consultant who focuses on destination sales performance and sales strategy.  In fact, over the past year, I have interviewed over seventy-five hotel general managers and directors of sales and marketing.  The one consistent take-a-way…their world has CHANGED!  More accountability, more meetings with owners and asset managers, can only mean more data.  

Within the hospitality industry, the impact of greater accountability doesn’t stop with hotels.  Destination sales leaders have to appreciate how this translates into the expectations our hotel stakeholders will have for us to substantiate and express the destination marketing organization’s value through data as well.    We no longer have the luxury of telling a story solely focused on room night production.  We must expand the narrative to include the overall impact of those room nights; including seasonality and our impact on low occupancy periods, along with optimal arrival and departure dates in high occupancy periods.  

So, what keeps us from harnessing the benefits of telling a “data rich” story of the value of our efforts?  Much lies in our ability to clearly express to our data analyst the bigger picture we are trying to convey, and their ability to understand not just the data,  but also be able to extract and organize it in a way that is both credible and easily understood by those with whom we share it. 

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This got me thinking…sales executives and data analysts to be steadfast interpreters!  A quick Google search revealed the traits any strong interpreter would possess.  It falls upon sales leaders and their data analysts to build a relationship that allows the analyst to become a superior interpreter for the destination’s sales effort, and the sales execute to understand a thing or two about data!    So, let’s take a look at those skills.

Understanding of Sales Language and Discipline/Industry Knowledge 

When an interpreter is working in a field, they must understand not only the language, but the nuances of the language and be able to fortify their understanding with both discipline and industry knowledge.  In the case of meeting sales, there are some key areas data analyst must have a keen grasp of, in order to be consultative when providing data that will satisfy sales leaders and their stakeholders.  

A good place to start is a deep-dive conversation to make sure there is a thorough understanding between the sales executive and data analyst around several key areas of sales reporting.  

Impact:  What are the particular ways we need to define and express the impact the sales team’s production is having on the destination?  

Future Outlook:  How do we need to report predictive analysis around booking pace and our ability to lead proactively? 

Seller’s Performance:  How can we best continuously gauge sales team productivity comparative to goals and incentives? 

Team Activities: In what ways can we examine and quantify the sales team’s account management activities? 

Boardroom Competency 

Beginning with the end in mind, a good data interpreter should also have real life experience in interacting with stakeholders and see first-hand their ability to grasp the information being presented.  It’s always prudent for the sales executive to actively involve their data analyst in the meetings and forums in which the data is discussed.  

Taking “Oz out from behind the green curtain,” will allow for a deeper understanding of the end result of the reporting and inform future reporting in a way that is both tangible and insightful.  Don’t always leave the data gay/gal back at the office crunching the numbers, give them a seat at the table and a voice in the conversation, so everyone grows exponentially in their knowledge of data capabilities.  

Good Two-Way Listening 

Interpretation situations, especially of data, can be intimidating for the “non-native speaker,” in this case, the “non-data heads!”  If the data analyst is going to support sales, everyone needs to take a more active role in listening, which always begins with good open-ended questioning.  Conversations about business impact and the objects of key areas of sales reporting laid out above will provide an opportunity for less back and forth, and considerably less frustration, between the sales leader and data analyst.   

Any Story We Tell is Only as Good as the Data We Tell It With…A Word About Data Quality

In conclusion, there is much to be gained in coming together for more conversation and understanding around the metrics we are reporting.  Yet, at the end of the day, the story we relate about our value will only be as good as the data with which we use to tell it.  Even the best interpreter will be limited in their ability by data that is inaccurate or incomplete.   It’s in everyone’s best interest to take continued measures to improve data health and quality.  BUT, that’s another story entirely!  

For now, let commit to coming together to gain a more complete understanding of the hospitality industry’s most valuable currency, becoming savvy investors and wise spenders.