ALHI’s Mark Sergot Weighs in on Sales Trends and Strategy
Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI), the leading independent Global Sales Organization serving the Meetings & Incentive marketplace, significantly expanded its worldwide portfolio and presence with the recent addition of 25 independent luxury-level meeting- and incentive-focused hotels and resorts located outside of North America.
ALHI also recently expanded its executive leadership team with the addition of highly respected hospitality industry sales executive Mark Sergot as Chief Sales Officer.
In this newly created position, Sergot is responsible for leading the ALHI Global Sales team as well as the structure, standards and strategy for the organization.
The highly regarded Sergot came to ALHI from Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI Hotels & Resorts), where he served as Senior Vice President of the Global Sales Organization, responsible for the structure, strategy, direction, sales training and standards of the worldwide sales force in 26 countries across the Fairmont, Raffles & Swissotel brands.
ConventionPlanit.com interviewed Sergot to learn more about ALHI and his plans for developing the ALHI sales operation.
CP: How many member hotels and resorts are now in the ALHI portfolio?
ALHI’s newly expanded portfolio features more than 250 luxury-level and upper-upscale hotels and resorts worldwide. This includes 150 hotels and resorts in the United States and Canada; 26 hotels and resorts in the Bermuda, Bahamas and Caribbean region; and more than 100 hotels and resorts in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Notably, all of ALHI’s member hotels and resorts are either independent or are with an independent hotel brand, and all specialize in hosting meetings, conventions and/or incentive programs.
Among the appealing new destinations in the ALHI portfolio are Buenos Aires, Argentina; Dublin, Ireland; Rome, Italy; Madrid, Spain; and London, United Kingdom. So, meeting and incentive professionals have one-call access to ALHI’s entire portfolio of outstanding luxury-level, meeting- and incentive-focused hotels and resorts around the world, by contacting their nearest ALHI Global Sales professional.
CP: Why did ALHI expand its portfolio outside of North America?
We added these exceptional hotels and resorts to our portfolio in response to the demand we’ve been experiencing from meeting, convention and incentive professionals for more luxury-level hotels and resorts around the world. ALHI now offers distinctive hotel and resort options in 58 countries, with an impressive and diverse variety across North America and worldwide. This includes exquisite resorts, city-center business hotels, lifestyle hotels, historic grand landmark hotels and boutique hotels. While ALHI has long been recognized for having the best portfolio of meetings-focused hotels and resorts in North America, we have now augmented our portfolio with fantastic options abroad.
CP: How do you see the evolution of the hotel sales approach? What is different today than it was five years ago and what will it look like going forward?
More so then ever, customers are looking for partners in the sales process. Time is limited, demands and expectations are high. At ALHI, we focus on a deep consultative approach with our clients. We want to understand all of the variables, important items and keys to success. We then work with our independent hotel partners to find a solution that’s tailored to their needs.
While the world is moving fast and technology solutions flourishing, we believe the key to success is centered on thoughtful conversations and clarity of customer needs. We don’t want to guess at what’s important, we really want to know. This knowledge and insight allows us to deliver a solution that exactly meets our customer’s needs.
CP: How do you view the value of industry conferences sponsored by organizations such as MPI, PCMA, ASAE, IMEX, IBTM and others, considering both the sales value and the education value for your salespeople?
Industry organizations are terrific partners for ALHI and our customers. Our business, at its core, is about bringing people together. The conferences supported by the industry organizations serve an exceptionally valuable purpose in fostering connections, surfacing solutions to common challenges and providing provoking thought leadership. At ALHI, we embrace and support our industry organization partners.
CP: How do you see the market developing for cruise ships as meeting destinations? What is the unique value proposition they offer compared to traditional land-based meeting sites?
A significant part of the meeting experience relates to the destination it’s held in or the venue selected. Many organizations look for unique and memorable experiences to both attract attendees and provide the platform for engagement. Cruise ships are a distinctly unique option that allows for exceptional connectivity and networking as well as the ability to experience various land options along the cruise route. Service is exceptional, the size of the cruise ship options are varied and our cruise partners are very focused on customizing the experience for our planner partners. We continue to see more and more interest in cruise options across our global customer base.
CP: You have a proven track record in building successful hotel sales operations. What is most important factor in making a sales team successful?
In my view, the most important element of a successful sales organization is the customer. The customer should be at the center of how we develop and evolve our salesforce. I focus on what approach our customers want, what they expect from our sales professionals, and what’s critically important to them as we engage together. Once we have clarity, we build our sales organization accordingly.
Factors include the employment profile we build for hiring new salespeople, how we train our salespeople, the technology solutions we use to enable our salespeople, and our coaching cadence. Keeping the customer at the heart of our approach ensures we never lose sight of what’s important in our business. At ALHI, the customer is center stage.
CP: What are a few of the key amenities that meeting professionals are asking for today that are different from what they were five years ago? How have ALHI properties evolved to meet these changing demands?
The changing needs of meetings attendees is high on the list for meeting planners. How do they balance the needs of technology-oriented millennials with the more traditional needs of more senior attendees? ALHI’s sales professionals try to zero in on needs such as these so our member hotels can offer solutions to ensure the best outcomes for our customers.
From less formal settings, technology hubs, immediate connectivity via social media to super healthy food and beverage options, these items top the list for many planners today. Through deep customer conversations, ALHI salespeople identify the key and important issues and then work with our talented member hotel partners to offer solutions that meet and exceed the customer needs.
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