Group Sales: The Unsung Heroes of Our Operations

Deana Scott

A story of bandaids and bolt cutters

All hail the Sales Department for creating guest engagement long before guests walk through the door. Let me explain.

Let’s be real: in most casino operations, the Slot Department gets what they want. This isn’t a criticism, it’s just fact. Slots drive revenue, blah, blah. Yes, it is true that we must make sure we focus on our primary product. However, imagine if we have two rooms filled with slots, one with just the games and one with the amenities, which one is going to survive over time? Clearly it’s the one that offers the guest a complete experience.

One department that helps create this experience tends to operate in the background by enhancing the guest experience, and even introducing the property to new and diverse groups. Today I want to salute the unsung heroes of the Group Sales Department. These multitasking, relationship building, crazy people never get credit like the Slot Department, but they deserve recognition, and at least some conversation about what might happen if we took them seriously.

I know we here at Raving have been “raving” about our experience at Choctaw Casino Resort during Raving’s 19th Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference this past January, but I feel like we could all use more to celebrate, and maybe we could learn something about creating loyalty and engagement with our guests by using them as an example.

The sales team has the opportunity to engage with the guest long before their arrival.

This means that they have the ability to make a guest eager to arrive or dreading the decision to come. A great team understands how to showcase the entire property, and how to customize each group’s experience. Having managed Group Sales in the past, I understand how much time this requires. Many times these groups begin the sales process years prior to arrival. The property gets one chance to execute on the dream of a perfect event. Unfortunately, too many times I’ve heard the operations team discount the importance of this piece of business. I’ve heard, “oh, that’s a hotel thing; they aren’t gamers, etc.”

When done correctly, sales can enhance your host parties, drive off-season business and create community support that brings more business than you ever expected.

These groups typically come during the business week when we are slow. Most of us need business, right? Here are a few ideas for how other departments can help drive product engagement and repeat business:

  • How about using the empty slot tournament machines to host a free slot tournament to get these 200+ people on the floor? Table Games could do the same.
  • Slow F&B outlets could offer group themed dinners or happy hour, group trivia or wine tasting. This helps your pre-dinner revenue.
  • Players club can offer a sign-up bonus following active play on the final day of the conference.
  • We have bowling alleys, theaters, bars, etc. It’s time to get creative. It doesn’t take much to show these groups you recognize that they bothered to come.

You get my point.

Finally – A final (maybe) shout-out to the Choctaw team. Here a few of the special touches that still make me smile, and make me even happier to celebrate our 20th Anniversary Indian Gaming National Marketing Conference with them next year:

  1. The property assigned Chris, our master orchestrator, a conference coordinator, strictly to check in and give support if there were any holes (there were not, but she tells me that it was nice to have a “runner” if she needed one).
  2. The airport shuttle waited for us even though we were twenty minutes late, and then Casino Host Nick greeted us by name as we boarded the shuttle. After a long day of travel, that felt amazing.
  3. Our shuttle driver pulled over at one of the most amazing convenience stores I’ve ever seen, and let us grab a snack and stretch our legs. He didn’t even need gas.
  4. We needed a Sunday evening walkthrough of the event. We didn’t hear that they don’t work on weekends. The sales team, maintenance and IT were available and eager to help (managers and supervisors, too).
  5. Our videographer had requested a cart to carry his gear. He is still gushing about the delivery and quality of the equipment. (Honestly, they may have spoiled him a bit too much).
  6. We had a vendor who needed bolt cutters, and guess what? They appeared (check out the photo).
  7. I asked about help for turning a room, and a sales army flooded the room to assist. I must admit that I was a bit embarrassed, but thoroughly impressed.
  8. We had a conference attendee who needed bandaids, and guess what? They appeared (check out the photo).
  9. Our famous millennial Raver, Gency, broke her phone while on site. The Valet Front Services Manager, Jesse Carney, drove her to the shop, and then even stopped at one of the local tourist sites so that she could snap a selfie.
  10. Robes, slippers, water and calming oil were delivered for turndown service.
  11. Casino Host Tam Ho hosted a slot tournament for attendees. It did get us on the floor. We did sign up for cards, and I saw attendees at slots and table games.
  12. The bars and restaurants were filled with attendees laughing, drinking, and even singing. (BTW – If you ever hire our Raving Partner Janet Hawk for an engagement, make sure that the contract requires her to sing a classic rock song for you. OMG!). I am sure that there are more. For those of you who attended the conference, please share some of your standout moments on our FB page.

This is engagement. This is what we strive to build with our guests. Creating this level of experience does not happen with just one department. It is possible when a property creates a service of culture from the top down, and gives the team the freedom to take care of the guest.

So I challenge operators to take a trip to the sales office (it may take you some time to find it, but try!). First, say thank you for all that they do. Then find out how you can build experiences within your department that take advantage of these guests who visit your property.

PS – Kudos to the hotel team! Love the note under the bed that read “Yes, we even cleaned under here. Yes, I looked.”

Deana Scott