Too Busy? How to Say No Politely
Hotel salespeople can be distracted by allowing others to steal their time.

Salespeople in the hospitality industry are high-energy. We’re all highly motivated, deeply involved with our customers, constantly responding to inquiries, and real go-getters. Moving a million miles per hour, handling so many finite details, uber enthusiastic – are we taking on too much?

Maybe it’s time we slowed down for a moment and looked more closely at our situation.

We might all agree that we are people pleasers. Why else are we so attracted to the hotel industry? Saying “yes” gives us a sense of joy when we are helping those around us. While it is one thing to say yes to a customer, saying yes to our peers and superiors may have an entirely different effect on us.

We’ve all been in the situation where one of our colleagues, a superior (our own or one from another department), comes to our office and asks for help. Because we are alpha types in the service business and since we enjoy pleasing people, our first instinct is to say yes, no matter how busy we are. When we agree to provide assistance, the person we are helping will often be able to scratch the requested item off of their “To Do” list.

The problem is that by taking on the obligation to help someone else, we have made it more difficult to devote our time to completing our own assigned tasks and goals. So you think you were busy before? Now your day is even fuller, and you could be at risk of not completing your own tasks.

When that person asks for help, we need to be able to say something to them like, “Listen, I’m very loyal, and you know I’d be happy to do anything for you. But here’s my To Do list today. I have a lunch, a meeting with an incoming client, and two site inspections. Help me decide which tasks I’ll need to forego in order to help you with your request?”

Put the decision back on the person requesting help. They may say, “Gosh – I didn’t realize your plate was so full today. Let me see if I can get someone else to help me with my request.” Or if they’re a superior they may say, “I’m sorry to place this burden on you, but I really do need your help on this matter. Let’s see if we can get someone else to help out on the site inspection.”

The approach you should take is to respond thoughtfully but let the person asking for help know what your priorities are. “What on my To Do list would you like me to postpone?” Then it’s a joint decision. This calls for some tact, but by being honest and thoughtful you have communicated at the highest level.

Are you failing to complete all of the tasks you really need to because others change your schedule? Know how to politely but firmly resist if it interferes with your assigned priorities.

How to Avoid Interruptions
Interruptions plague hospitality salespeople because of who and what they are.

When it comes to the sales personnel at a hotel, as a general rule salespeople have the following wonderful qualities:

  • They are smart.
  • They are well-groomed.
  • They are well-educated.
  • They are attractive.
  • They have excellent anticipatory skills.
  • They are terrific fun.
Unfortunately these qualities can lead directly to interruptions.

Add in the fact that hotel salespeople may have food out in their offices, and is it any wonder that they suffer frequent interruptions when other hotel employees come to them to seek assistance for a variety of personal problems?

Being a team player is important but…

You want to support the people in the other departments, but the big issue becomes when you allow these interruptions. If you permit too many of these interruptions between 9 and 5, you probably won’t make your numbers – or have a job for very long. It’s scant consolation that everyone will miss you when you’re gone.

9 to 5 is considered prime selling time. Selling is what you were hired to do. This prime time is clearly the best opportunity to contact your customer. Rarely do we find our customers working the swing or graveyard shifts.

So we have to maximize our daytime productivity, and that means avoiding interruptions.

By their very nature, hotel salespeople enjoy nurturing others and receive joy when they are able to help colleagues with their problems.

As much as you want to help the very people that support your efforts, you absolutely must train people who drop by that these interruptions need to be an emergency if they occur during peak selling time. Very often we can deflect the interruption with a cordial but firm, “You know, I’m just really busy right now. How about if I meet you after work? I have so many high-priority items on my plate that will affect my numbers today. Can we get together at 5:30?”

That last comment is important. You want to indicate that you’re willing to listen and willing to help by offering a specific alternative.

What do you do if it’s your boss?

Frankly, you have to train them as well. Depending on your relationship, you need to express your willingness to help but specifically refer to a project you are working on. This allows your boss to make the choice as to what is the most important. If interruptions from your boss yield a new task to take on, do it with a smile. Let’s face it: when all’s said and done, doing what our boss tells us to do is our job.

Protect your selling time.

When employees come to you for help with a personal issue, showing compassion is important, but you have to make it clear that while you are willing to help, you cannot stop to help them during valuable selling time. Be thoughtful but firm. Your job between 9 and 5 is to sell.