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Sales and service a sign of the times

Warren KlugInside BusinessAspen, CO Colorado

When I was growing up, there was a Ford dealership and garage in our little town. It is gone now, replaced by a huge dealership on the outskirts of town with shiny new cars stretched out for acres. But back then, the garage was right in town. The big electric sign over the building said, FORD SALES AND SERVICE. Even after the dealership was long gone, and the Ford sign taken down, the sales and service sign remained. I think it was up there for years, no longer lighted each evening but still very much present.I had occasion to think of those days recently, and I was reminded of that sales and service sign. It told an important story back then, and I think it is an important story today. I sometimes think that the key to success in business is just that sales and service. I believe that is true for us today, even in our little town of Aspen and in the businesses that make our community work. Of course, we need to start with the right product, and the good news for all of us in Aspen is that we have it. Both summer and winter, Aspen provides visitors with a world-class vacation experience. We all know about the great snow, our magnificent mountains, and the terrific job done by the Aspen Skiing Co. to make our winter product the best there is. In the summer, too, we have so much to offer from great music to the whole variety of Rocky Mountain activities. And, do not forget our great restaurants and shopping. We are fortunate to live and do business in one of Americas premier vacation destinations. No question, we have the product.So, what about sales and service? First, we are reminded that even the best product can go unnoticed or unsold if its not promoted. Thats the sales part of success. Is there anyone who does not know about Coke, or McDonalds, or Las Vegas? Still, they all are very visible, always selling and reminding the marketplace that they are there. If familiar products like these spend millions of dollars reminding the public that they are there, what is the message for us? Simple: We need to keep our sales efforts going as well. For Aspen and for our individual businesses, there are many ways to promote and sell. However we do it, we need to keep those efforts strong, especially now as we look at the financial turmoil nationwide and its potential negative impact on our winter season ahead.Years ago I heard a hotel sales consultant relate his key to success in the hospitality business: People go where they are invited and return where they have been made to feel welcome.I believe he was right. That is the key to success in the hospitality industry of which we are all a part. I equate inviting with sales, and the message is clear. We need to keep on selling and keep on inviting, especially now. The second part of the statement is even more important. Can there be any question that we all need repeat customers? Return guests are essential. If they are so important, and I believe they are, then we have to ask this question, how do we encourage return guests? The message above tells us to provide an environment that is so welcoming and a service orientation that is so noticed that people will want to return, over and over again and they will tell their friends. Promoting this service environment is the goal of the lodging business that I manage, and I think it needs to be the goal of us collectively since together, we make up the Aspen product. There are many ways to make people feel welcome. Examples: appearances, first impressions and image, cleanliness, enthusiasm, personality and attention to detail. A welcoming atmosphere is created by people all of us and our team members and how we accommodate our guests. There is no substitute for friendly, helpful people and the welcoming service they provide.As we look forward to another busy winter season, I wish I could transplant that old Ford sign to the wall in our front office. It is the key to any success we may enjoy.Sales and service are essential, and both need to be priorities for us all, in our individual businesses and throughout our community as we welcome our guests this season ahead.

Warren Klug is the general manager of the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel. The Business Lounge is a feature of Inside Business, published Tuesdays in The Aspen Times.


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