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How I Got My First Hotel Sales Jobs

Starting from a teenager, I worked primarily in the Restaurant Business as a Waitress. I’ve worked at Bingo Halls, Ice Cream Shops, Fast Food, Catering Halls and Fine Dining. For two years I worked as a Bartender.

I have always been around people and have been very successful making connections. Up selling, refilling their drinks and getting extra napkins before they ask I found was very satisfying to me and job satisfaction is important.

I was in my late 20’s and I was at a point where I didn’t want to count on “tips” to make my rent payments. While at a flea market, I found a typewriter for $5.00 and I bought it. Taking typing in High School, I thought I would remember what I learned but all I could do is chicken pluck and I had to look at every letter.

Not knowing where this would lead me, I spent many hours learning and teaching myself how to type. I took a couple of courses on Saturday’s for additional education that I thought might make me worthy of something …but I didn’t know worthy for what?

Soon I upgraded and invested in a word processor. Remember them? To teach myself I put on my favorite music and tried to keep up with the words that I heard by typing them. Of course Metallica wasn’t a good choice, I found that I got better and better and soon I had whole songs typed out. Spelling has always been a challenge for me and when “Spell Check” came out, I was extremely pleased and relieved.

For two years I was working at a Red Lobster in Maryland and making pretty good money as a Waitress. Sometimes I was given good tips, sometimes I was left nothing. I won the “top revenue producer” almost every week and I enjoyed expediting and training new staff.

A friend of mine told me that a Holiday Inn was desperate for a Sales Administrator. I interviewed in fear as I wondered if I could really do what she wants. I couldn’t imagine answering the phone. I had no idea about proper letter writing or anything about the hotel business. My starting pay would be $7.50 an hour. I made much more being a Waitress at Red Lobster.

I came to a point in my life where I wanted more. I knew that I would have to sacrifice. All of these years I had never had insurance, sick pay or other benefits that I heard existed. I passed her “typing and other qualifications” and I decided to take the job.

My fall back would be to simply go back to Red Lobster or find another waitress position. During my last two weeks at Red Lobster, I worked like a dog to get all of the extra income before I started at Holiday Inn.

Now I needed proper attire. Thank goodness I had some help. I was used to slip free sneakers, socks, pants, shirt and apron. To save on my expenditure, I shopped at the local thrift shops and bought business clothes. The high heals terrified me and I could barely walk in them. So I practiced at home on the hard wood floors. And the nylons, I hated them.

On my first day, I hobbled in looking professional and feeling pretty good. I had a desk, phone and a typewriter. Wow, I felt like a Queen. When the phone rang, I answered it. I had no idea what I was saying or what to say. I thought just be friendly and write everything down. It was important that I learn as fast as possible.

My Director of Catering was awesome. There was no Room Sales Person and I didn’t even know about the position or what it consisted of. My Director taught me everything. She gave me examples of how to write a letter and took the time to teach me. What was a fax machine? I am still to this day very grateful to her. Soon she introduced me to her clients, still I did not understand what was going on or any hotel lingo.

Although my pay was terrible, I somehow made it through as I wanted to be something more. To assist in my wage, I worked in banquets, worked in the Restaurant as a Hostess and I was trained in Accounting and the Front Desk. I did not understand the importance of what was happening and even why it was happening. I knew I got lucky and I believed that someone above was paying me back for being a good person.

As the inquires came in, I started dropping off menus at people’s houses after work. Then my Director trained me to cover for her the Catering Events if she was busy. I loved every minute of it.

I felt important, professional and worthy. This is just what I had wanted. And after a couple of months I finally could walk better in those high heals!

One day my General Manager brought me into his office. I was scared and did not know what to expect. Was I being fired?

The Management Company was interviewing for a Sales Manager position to sell the sleeping rooms. He felt that I was a “diamond in the rough” and offered his assistance to help prepare me for the interview with the Vice President of Sales.

For a week he taught me everything he could “ADR, REVPAR, Occupancy, Budgets, Cold Calling, Qualifying” everything. I was overwhelmed. He practiced with me and even made me cry a couple of times when I couldn’t give him the right answer.

Finally my interview. I had met with my General Manager for one last class then off I went to knock them dead. Feeling fresh out of school, somehow I “wowed” her enough that she actually hired me! My starting salary was $25,000 annually with bonus potential, vacation, insurance and paid sick days!

Although my Director was upset that I would no longer be her assistant, she was proud of me. When I received my business cards, I actually hid in the bathroom for 10 minutes and cried I was so happy.

My first week consisted of my General Manager driving around Corporate Parks with me. At every stop, he gave me advise and told me what to day. I went in and asked if they use any local hotels. What ever they said, I wrote down. He made a few sample calls in front of me to show me how to follow up. I paid close attention.

My second week consisted of my General Manager driving around with me again. This time if they had hotel needs I was to ask to speak to the person who could help me. This was pretty fun and people were receptive.

In my free time, I checked out the other hotels in the area. Not being told to do that, I believe that the natural Sales Person came out subconsciously. My first client I closed was Pitney Bowes. They qualified at 2,500 room nights a year. I found an addiction to this feeling of closing a big one. I was sent flowers and a congratulations letter from the VP of the Management Company.

After working this area for 6 months, I was asked to interview with another hotel that they needed a Sales Person for that was in the area. It was larger and had much more meeting space and it was a $5,000 raise if I got it. Yes, I did.

At this new hotel I succeed very well and made bonus every quarter. After one year, my name was #1 compared to over 40 hotels in our Region. The Management Company sent me to many training classes through out the year and I even was invited out for a trip to their Corporate Headquarters. I had never traveled by plane before this.

I did not have college education but I did graduate on Honor Roll in High School. I was lucky that people were willing to invest their time in me to succeed. All of this starting from that $5.00 typewriter. It all paid off.

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