EPISODE 059: PM Hotel Group Sales Leader Leticia Proctor Addresses How Data Makes Selling Her Hotels More Hospitable
Leticia Proctor is a Senior VP of Sales, Revenue Management and Digital Strategies for PM Hotel Group.
She’s responsible for development and implementation of all sales, revenue management and digital strategy efforts at the national, regional and property levels. She also focuses on maximizing total hotel revenue while building a sales culture that promotes staff development and retention, new hotel openings, hotel re-positioning and re-branding.
Prior to joining the PM Hotel Group, she was the regional director of sales and marketing for Hersha Hospitality Management Corporation.
She’s also worked for such prestigious hotel companies as Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, Crestline Hotels and Resorts, Remington Hotels and Resorts, Interstate Hotels and Resorts, Loews Corporation and Hospitality Partners. Additionally, she is also pursuing a masters of professional studies in hospitality management at Georgetown University.
Find Leticia on LinkedIN!
Leticia Proctor: Thank you so much for having me, Fred. I really am delighted and honored to be a part of this podcast. About myself, I really enjoy spending time with my three sons, two are away in college and I have a younger son that’s in the fifth grade. Our life is great right now and I really also enjoy travelling, international travel at best, that’s one of my favorite things.
Fred Diamond: Where’s some place you’ve gone recently that’s been interesting?
Leticia Proctor: I love Paris, I love London, I love Amsterdam, Bruges is probably the most unique, it’s a medieval city in Belgium, it’s amazing. Those are some of the things that I enjoy doing in my off time.
Fred Diamond: Very good. You’ve worked for some very exceptional and prestigious brands in the hospitality space so I’m really interested in learning about your sales journey and your sales career. First, tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Leticia Proctor: In my role as senior vice president of sales in marketing and digital strategies and revenue management, I am responsible for all things revenue at PM Hotel Group. So anything that touches the customer, that rolls up to me, and that result is north of 400 million dollars a year, so it’s more than a million dollars a day. What keeps me up at night? Ensuring that we hit those targets. What excites me about that are the results, so although we sell items that are not tangible – such as a pair of shoes or a pair of pants – my results are tangible. I can look at the numbers and they speak for themselves. When I get people engaged with my sales team and they understand the overall objective, when I hit that target and exceed that target, that to me speaks volumes and that is what keeps me going.
Fred Diamond: For some of the people who are listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast today that don’t really know about the hospitality space, tell us again some of the things that people physically buy from you, some of the things that your company actually sells.
Leticia Proctor: It’s funny you asked that, I get asked that question a lot in the hotel industry. What we sell are the hotel accommodations. We sell meeting space, we sell food, we sell audiovisual, we sell dinner and breakfast and restaurant, and we sell Wi-Fi, but none of those things you can really take you aside from your food. For us it’s about reaching a person’s – not only their intellectual capacity – but also the emotional connection, that EQ that keeps people coming back. That experience that they have that brings that your fork memory where they want to come back to your environment and you don’t always have to start from scratch when you are trying to fill a hotel every day. Those are things that you want to make sure you have a core customer base to minimize the amount of people that you have coming in and out of the hotel where it’s a given that at least you’ll start at 40% occupancy. Those are things that I am responsible for with my team and how do we create that environment where people want to return.
Fred Diamond: Who does your team primarily interface with? Is it hotel owners and operators, franchisers or, how does that work?
Leticia Proctor: In my team it depends on their level. Above property people may engage with ownership, they will also engage with the brands: Marriott, Hilton, Starwood. But we also engage with the customer, so at the property level our sales teams engage with that meeting planner that wants to have an event for their corporation or it may be a bride that wants to have their event, or it may be someone celebrating their retirement. We touch all the different lenses of that customer cycle and it’s important that we deliver because we are the experts in our field.
Fred Diamond: Take us back to the beginning of your career. How did you first get into sales as a career?
Leticia Proctor: I actually started in operations and because of my personality I kept getting asked, “Why aren’t you in sales?” and I thought, “That’s interesting.” That started my path towards the sales environment so prior to being in this space I was an assistant general manager for a hotel for a little while. The great thing about my experience is that I understand the operation’s component as well.
For me, it’s not just about top line revenue, for me it’s about that full cycle of business. How does it flow to GOP? How does it flow to that gross operating profit? How does it flow to that net operating income? It’s not just about, “It looks good on paper, have we collected the funds that we thought we would to ensure that we’re a profitable company?”
Fred Diamond: Take us back to some of those first jobs. What are some of the lessons that have stuck with you until today?
Leticia Proctor: My first sales job was with Hospitality Partners and Debbie Feldman- her father was Harvey Feldman, who started the first Embassy Suites. She was my sales leader and one thing I learned from her that was life-changing was to trust my instincts. When you’re out doing a sales call and you can invisibly see that you’re interrupting someone, or you can visibly see that it’s not a good time, follow that instinct and go back to that person when it’s more convenient as opposed to forcing a square peg into a round hole. It’s more important to understand and be empathetic to what their needs are and build that trust. Trust your instincts when you go out and if it’s not a good fit, it’s not a good fit.
Also, before you engage in that sales call environment, understand what is your objective for the day. A lot of people get frustrated with sales calls because their goal is to go out and come back with a signed contract and that will hardly ever happen but if something’s a little bit more achievable such as, “I just want the name of the contact person that is responsible for making decisions and then I can go another path later” tends that you have more positive results. If you have that in mind, an objective that’s a lot more achievable, then you have a win but when you set that expectation super high and unachievable in the very beginning, that’s when you have that pit fall of being unsuccessful.
Fred Diamond: You’re the VP, you’re responsible for all sales revenue, revenue management and digital strategy. Tell us specifically what you’re an expert in. Tell us about your specific area of brilliance.
Leticia Proctor: I believe my area of brilliance would be the ability to analyze data. That comes from a place of root cause analysis so starting broad and then becoming very specific, and then from there enacting strategies that yield results that are, “Hit the bench mark but exceed the bench mark.” Often times, people when they’re looking at their performance they don’t have a clear path of what the objective is. For example, when I’m looking at someone’s performance, root cause analysis, did we achieve budget? Yes or no.
If the answer is no, my next question is why. Was it transient, was it group, was it contract? If it was group, why? And so I start with that approach but I continue to become a little more granular until I get to the root cause. For me, success is about treating the cause and not the symptoms, so if you have a cold and you’re just treating the runny nose or just treating the sneezing but not really get into the root cause which may be bronchitis then you’re exhaustive practice and for that to be a sustainable you have to get to the cause of what’s causing the erosion or the level of non-performance.
Fred Diamond: As a sales leader – I just want to follow up on that – tell our audience how you physically use data. Do you have a dashboard that’s directed to you, a certain key metrics every day, certain KPI’s? Do you get printed reports? Do you meet with an analyst? Give us a little bit of a peek into how you physically capture and use the data.
Leticia Proctor: My environment is more of a combination of a push report as well as a pull report environment, but also I’m naturally curious. My father tested as a genius and I believe that what I acquired from him was his excellent memory and I’m naturally curious.
For me, I do receive reports, at PM Hotel Group we have a couple of things. I do receive reports that are pushed to me so I can easily roll up the portfolio and then hone in on specific hotels but also we have business intelligence software that I can actually draw down on and just look for ebbs and flows. It’s a variance, analyzing the variances.
If I see they were not achieving a target, then I’m going to have a more thorough look and a more granular look at why we’re not achieving the target or why are we achieving the target and how can we capitalize on that more. In my environment I can look at all the hotels in our portfolio. Between owned and in manage and under development it’s just under 50 so I can look at those hotels and figure out where do we land here and how do we improve our performance.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go back to also throughout your career as well. You talked already about a couple people who have influenced you over your career, but take us back and tell us some stories about some of the impactful sales career mentors that you’ve had to get you to where you are today.
Leticia Proctor: Vicki Denfeld – she is still a mentor to me today, when I have those questions about the foundations of sales. I trust her judgement. What I’d liked about Vicki – actually I really respect and admire about her – is she’s very approachable but she’s very real. I felt that it was always a safe zone to ask questions and that she had my best interest at heart.
My mentor today is actually our president at PM Hotel Group who is Joseph Bojanowski. His method of guiding our performance has taught me to think differently. Not only at a professional level but a personal level. When I look at root cause analysis now, I think of them differently. When I look at situations, “What’s the best alternative to a negotiated agreement?” If I look at a BATNA, what’s the overall goal here? If I want to look at data, there’s so many different ways to slice and dice data and arrive at different results. Under his leadership – and it’s been almost 5 years – I’m still learning, and I respect him on so many levels that he is the biggest mentor not only on a professional level but a personal level. That to me has been life changing.
Fred Diamond: Thinking differently, I’m going to ask you a question that’s a little bit off the course here. Before we get to talk about some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a sales leader, give us a little peek into your industry. What are some of the macro level challenges, maybe, that are facing the hospitality industry today to give the people listening a little more context?
Leticia Proctor: One thing that’s on my radar right now is growth, the growth model. How is that sustainable? We’re growing because we have a high number of over achievers and high performers. But as we continue to grow in our portfolio, is our current model sustainable? If we continue to acquire assets, will it be an environment where I can plug and play in the sense of adding new hotels and still have that peak performance or is it going to at some point cause erosion in performance because people are overly burdened?
Where is that maximum capacity where you can still get a high performance but still have people that are fully engaged? That is something that as I look at our environment for sales, we want continued internal growth but also how do I assure that people stay engaged. That would be one, a thing that keeps me up at night, and the other would be how do you keep your number ones? The teams that are #1 consistently. Those high performers, how do you keep them motivated? Sometimes you can be a #1 performer but are you truly #1? Just because you’re an A, are you an A-? Are you an A+? Are you an A? Do you compete against yourself?
How can you perform better to yourself as opposed to just you comp set? Those are things that I want to make sure I touch individuals consistently and I also want to ensure that I understand what their why is. It’s not just about my why, it’s about their why, too. What keeps them motivated? What keeps them engaged? Because if I lose that sense of engagement as a leader, I lose my team and I lose my overall path in my career. In sales it’s about the relationships, not only what the individuals can do for our company, but what can we do for them on a personal level that will allow them to have continued growth.
Fred Diamond: Just curiously, what are some of the strategies that you’ve had to employ to keep your top tier performers engaged?
Leticia Proctor: I let them in, I am vulnerable with them at times. I am not very cut and dry, they know the personal side of me, too. They know the human side of me. There are some times when there are a lot of things that cost the competing priorities, they know about my family, they know about my life, I am an open book but I’m also very consistent.
You can ask anyone on my team, I am really good at having their back. If you have exhausted on measures and you need assistance, I am here for you but I can also be fair and firm. It’s a two way street but what my team gets from me is consistency as well as the truth. If I don’t know, I don’t know. I don’t profess to know everything so I can be an open book.
Fred Diamond: That is good. You let your team come to you. You talked about some of your mentors, do you believe that they look at you as a mentor as well? Do you consider yourself to be a mentor to other sales professionals in the industry?
Leticia Proctor: I do. When I look back on my career, to see some people that have started out in the industry as a coordinator or very new in the hotel industry and now they’re regional VP’s or they’re directors of sales that grew under my leadership, that still reach out to me today – and I’ve been in this space for over 20 years – if they have a question or if they need to understand something, that to me is invaluable. Because it’s not just about what I’m doing for my company or wherever I am, but how do I help others grow and how do I help them achieve their full potential.
When I look back on my career, I smile at that. Even today I still talk to students at universities as well as high schools about the path forward and expecting great things.
Fred Diamond: Leticia, take us back to a specific sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of.
Leticia Proctor: I am most proud of creating an environment where people learn. I have a grassroots and a grasstops approach and I want people to engage and continuously learn. I also want them to ask the tough questions, just because we’ve done something consistently for X amount of years, is this still relevant today? And if it’s not relevant, let’s change it. I’m about efficiencies. Ask why all day long, ask whatever you want and we’ll make it happen if we can.
But also I am very happy when I look back on my career showing people how I interpret data so they can understand when we’re asking questions here’s why we need that question answered. That to me gives a more thoughtful, structured, disciplined approach to analytics and also not just blindly trusting the data. You’ve got to also vet the data. Is the data accurate? Because if you put strategies in place that are based on flawed data, you will yield negative results.
Fred Diamond: You’ve been taken through this very interesting and exceptional career that you’ve had. You’ve worked with some amazing brands in the hospitality space, you’ve done some very exciting things across the entire hospitality spectrum. Did you ever question being in sales? Again, you started your career in operations. Was there ever a moment where you thought to yourself, Leticia Proctor, “It’s just too hard, sales is just not for me”?
Leticia Proctor: [Laughs] I have had those thoughts occasionally. I am one that always analyzes why, what happened, why do I feel this way. In the sale space, sometimes life can become very chaotic. It can become exhausting, you can have to deal with decision fatigue. Sometimes you may start early in the day. Even though people are empowered, they still may want to come to you as a go-to person. So if you’re peppered with a lot of decisions that you need to make, you can suffer from decision fatigue.
When I think about sales and life being chaotic, often times I just need to get some sleep or some rest because I know that if I were to have a normal environment where it’s predictable, that would last for probably three days and then I’d be bored to tears because I like the engagement of problem solving and being known as the fixer, but also being the one that gets it done. My results speak for themselves. When I think about the team and my career, yes, there are times that I get frustrated, but it’s only for a moment because I love what I do.
Fred Diamond: Leticia, I want to get some of your tips on how today’s listeners can take their career to the next level. What is the most important thing you want to get across to junior selling professionals listening to today to help them improve their career?
Leticia Proctor: That’s an excellent question. I think that if I were to give them advice, it would be – and I just spoke about this a couple of weeks ago – but it would be to learn to embrace the cycle of business, the full cycle of business. When junior sales professionals understand how important their role is to the entire cycle of business, that’s when you get full engagement, all in attitude and great results.
But if that sales person doesn’t understand how human resources ties into their role or how operations ties into their role, or how accounting ties into their role that’s when people fail. That’s when they’re not successful. I was just having this discussion with someone a couple of weeks ago, entrepreneurs, for example. They’re really good at making an item but they don’t understand cost analysis and cost ratios, so if they don’t understand that component then you will not be profitable at the bottom line.
I think it’s important when junior sellers are still in college or still in school, to understand the cycle of business and they don’t have to be an expert in every category, they don’t have to be an expert in computers but understand how to improve efficiencies. If you have Excel, it’s only as good as how you use it. If you don’t understand Excel but you have it, you’re not going to improve your efficiencies. If it takes you five hours to get a project done but someone else 20 minutes there you have it. Those are things that junior sellers, as we continue this path forward with the sales industry, you have to create your own intellectual capital and your own sense of value. How are you going to be a value add to your current or present or future employer? If you cannot then you will be deemed the liability.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things that you do specifically to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Leticia Proctor: Oddly enough, I do not want to be the smartest person in the room. I don’t. I want to stay engaged, I want to be around like-minds in the sense of the goal of being a game changer, a history maker, but I don’t want everyone to think like me and I don’t want to be the smartest person in the room. I want it to be a give and take, I want an environment where I am constantly learning. It’s output and input. I don’t want to always give out, I don’t always want to receive, it’s got to be a balanced approach to success.
If you don’t have that in your inner circle and ensuring that you have people that you respect in your pipeline, that’s when people become stagnant. That’s when you have a clear example of, for example, the Peter Principle where people get to their highest level of incompetency and they cannot grow, they’re at their brain capacity. For me, it’s about surrounding myself with like-minded people and it is about spending time with peers, networking with the organizations that continue to allow me to grow.
Fred Diamond: What is a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Leticia Proctor: Right now I am pursuing my masters at Georgetown University.
Fred Diamond: Good for you.
Leticia Proctor: And hospitality management and I get asked a lot of times, “You’re the senior vice president of sales. What are you going to do with this masters?” For me it’s not about that. It’s about my personal growth, it’s about my bucket list. As long as I can remember, I wanted to graduate from Georgetown University. I was actually attending the University of Maryland to graduate a program when I decided to start with Georgetown because it’s something that I wanted to do. After that, I may just pursue law at Georgetown, my law degree and not because I want to be an attorney, just because I want my JD. Those are things that keep me in the know and keep my mind fresh and experience in life the lens of others.
Fred Diamond: Sales is hard. People don’t return your calls or your emails. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that keeps you going?
Leticia Proctor: I have a tenacious attitude and spirit about my personal life and my professional life, so for me it’s about the results. Going back to what I learned from very early in my career about self-awareness, I always put myself in that person’s shoes. Why aren’t they calling me back? Why wouldn’t they want to call me back? How can I reach them and do they see the value in what I can give them to satisfy their need and make life easier for them, and give them back their time, and help them do things next level and not just basic? How can we take this ten steps higher? Those are things where when I look at my performance overall and I look at what I can do as far as helping others exceed, that’s why I don’t give up, I never had. I’ve never given up in anything in my life and I expect great things.
Fred Diamond: Very good.
Leticia Proctor: Mediocrity is not something that I can live with.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you give us one final thought that you’d like to share with the Sales Game Changers listening to today’s podcast?
Leticia Proctor: If I were to leave everyone with a final thought, that would be it’s not only important to know your why, it’s important for you to understand and know the why of others. And if those two things don’t align, don’t take that lightly because something will disengage. If you’re on the same level playing field and you’re going to go next level, life is good. Some people don’t know what makes them happy, some people are happy coma but… I don’t just want to be happy, period. I want to be fulfilled and I also want to be phenomenal. Great is good but phenomenal is exceptional, so to me, know your why and know the why of others and make sure that those are a common effort.
Fred Diamond: Know your why.