Working in the hospitality industry, one of the things I learned quickly is that success and failure can be very relative terms. For example, when you look at bookings for hotels, most have lead conversion rates of just 30 to 40%, numbers which are fairly standard. When it comes down to it, how you define failure is what you do with those unsuccessful bookings. I’ve been working in sales and marketing for about 15 years, and what I’ve noticed is that when it comes to data, failure isn’t really a negative outcome, but a learning opportunity that can unlock even greater value down the line.

It may seem counterintuitive, but the reality is that you can leverage the data of every single failure across your sales funnel and value chain. There are two ways you can look at it. The first is to focus on individual points of failure. We sometimes track our customers’ booking calls to find areas where booking agents can improve. Focusing on the individual will give us great pointers to better their performance, but it doesn’t do much on a broader level. Focusing on trends, on the other hand, can give us a much bigger brush to paint with, and help improve the sales and conversion funnel, as well as give us data that is invaluable to expanding our sales reach.

How to Redefine Failure

Let’s reexamine that 30 to 40% booking success rate I mentioned above. On the surface, that translates to a 60% or more failure rate, but that doesn’t really tell the whole story. On a case-by-case level, each booking call can actually produce two failures, though at least one can be converted into a success. Any time a lead is not converted in a call, it can be considered a failed booking. However, even a failed call will produce something that has a significant value to both sales and marketing teams—user data. No matter the industry, any opportunity to collect data offers a significant value.

Think about something as small as an email address. During any booking—or sales, marketing, or cold—call there are numerous opportunities to collect data. Simply asking a consumer for their email to contact them further, even if that call doesn’t lead to success, can have tremendous value. Curious, we decided to do the math, and we discovered that even in a failure, a collected email is worth roughly $90 to $100. This is even when a booking wasn’t made, and yet a single failed call can lead to profits down the line.

Driving Success from Failure

Even when you consider failure data on a broader level, the results can be surprising. Every touch point between a sales or marketing team and a consumer produces data. That means that the 60% of people who don’t book after they’ve spoken to someone on the phone or visited a website will still give you valuable information. Understanding where a call breaks down, if a sales tactic is unsuccessful, or even if marketing isn’t resonating with a customer can come down to how the data is analyzed. You can view it on a single level and make small improvements on specific insights. This can be anything from avoiding a word to changing a pitch slightly.

However, most sales and marketing teams produce massive amounts of failure data, and that information tends to sit in storage unprocessed and ignored. The real value in this data extends far beyond individual cases, but in finding trends that can help improve services slightly but with impressive results. When you focus on your success data, you’re looking at a percentage of the total picture, and though it can help you, it’s giving you an incomplete view of the playing field.

Moreover, it’s only telling you what you’re already doing right. Examining failure data over 5, 10, 15, or 20 years can help you identify insights that you were completely unaware of. Finding a technique you thought was helping is actually harming sales, or uncovering small seasonal changes can impact sales is more valuable than reinforcing your winning strategies. More importantly, that data comes from leads who you should be more focused on—the ones who you were unable to convert.

Turning Failure into Insight

Failures are always undesirable outcomes in the sales and marketing process, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. We have found that by examining each failed conversion and booking, we can better understand our customers and our market. By focusing on those areas that you’ve been ignoring you can find a key to unlocking significant value that may go unnoticed when you only look at the things you’re doing right.

About the Author

Brise Carpenter


As Vice President, Client Success, Brise leads NAVIS’ Client Advocates, a team of 20 top-notch hospitality consultants with more than 280 combined years of experience; and our NAVIS University and Technical Support teams. Many on his team are former hotel and vacation rental executives and some are MBAs, but all of them know how to best use NAVIS solutions to drive more performance and more profit. The hundreds of millions of dollars in incremental revenue they help clients capture each year is testament to the value they deliver. Brise holds a BA in Business Management and Organizational Leadership from George Fox University and an MBA from Concordia University.;

Hear more from Brise by listening to our podcast, Radical Transparency, on SoundCloud, iTunes, or anywhere you listen to podcasts.

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