Selling After Furlough: Debbie Parsons-Randle, Director of Sales, Southampton Harbour Hotel & Spa
Located in the picturesque English seaside city and popular port for cruise ships, The Southampton Harbour Hotel & Spa is the only 5-star property, offering 119 contemporary guest rooms, an award-winning restaurant, a luxury spa with a state-of-the-art gym, and a destination rooftop bar. Originally opened in October 2017, the hotel has been recognized on The Times Top 100 British Hotels list, definitely the top spot in Southampton.
We catch up with Director of Sales, Debbie Parsons-Randle, as the hotel reopens after the UK lockdowns. She opens up about returning to work after a year of furlough, how she's changed, how the customers have changed and offers tips for getting back to working on the property.
What is your mindset and how are you feeling after 12 months off? It does feel like we are opening the hotel all over again! I have spent a lot of my furlough time actually learning more about myself and taking time to really step back. I have also been volunteering in the vaccination programme which has kept me connected with others. It’s easy to get caught up in the 24-hour operation of hotels and the pressure of sales, it has been non-stop since we very first opened. Moving forward I will definitely be taking the time to make sure I do more activities for me outside of work, which in turn will make me more successful in my work. How has the customer changed? Our corporate clients come from a variety of industries and we have had excellent success in attracting sporting and entertainment groups in the last two years. Since the pandemic, the market has changed and so it requires you to sit back and really take a holistic approach and re-look at opportunities and feeder markets to understand the best opportunities for the business. Our client’s circumstances and policies will have changed considerably over the past 14 months due to the pandemic and so it’s a great opportunity to re-set and look at new opportunities and relationships that may have not been a key focus before. How have you changed? I have learnt not to beat myself up! I have very high expectations of myself; some would probably say unrealistic, which can be exhausting! So I have certainly learnt to not beat myself up if I don’t answer every email I get in my inbox on the day. I think many people will have come away from this period with new insights into themselves and how they can be better and kinder to themselves moving forward. What is different about how you will approach selling now versus pre-covid? For me, I have always been passionate about developing relationships, and this has not changed. However, knowing that some of our clients are not going to be able to do business with us in the short term, it doesn’t mean they won’t in 6-12 months’ time. So it is key to keep in contact with clients and let them know we are here for them when they are ready. I am excited to look at some alternative markets and develop even more opportunities and relationships. Have booking windows changed? Interestingly as we are coming out of this lockdown, clients seem much more confident in putting pen to paper, which is really encouraging. Clients are keen to get dates secured and making plans for the remainder of this year. Our enquiry levels are very high, with a variety of lead times. We are seeing most of the business arrive this year, with a few key pieces coming in for 2022. With the roadmap and vaccination programme, I think people feel so much more confident, which is so reassuring for hoteliers and hospitality in general. What are you most excited about? I am excited to have the hotel open and the guests inside. We have been lucky enough to be able to open our Spa and HarBar on 6th Rooftop Bar Terrace since April and so having some guests in has given us an opportunity to train staff and get the operation ready for our full opening today. I am lucky to work with an amazing team and so seeing my colleagues every day again is great. Top tips for other sales professionals getting back to selling...
Be kind to yourself. This has been an unprecedented time and it will take a while to adjust to going back to work.
Remember to take your daily walk, keep having your weekly zoom with family or friends if you are far away.
Don’t stop the things you have enjoyed whilst you have been off and that you enjoy just because the doors have opened again.