17 experts advise on what’s to come this year. Spoiler: Data factors big.
The Innovate Conference for the Advancement of Business Travel offered business travel executives the opportunity to articulate priorities and recommendations.
American Airlines SVP of global sales Alison Taylor talks:
American Airlines is pouring resources into its sales
efforts this year, including a significant buildup of its sales team under SVP
of global sales Alison Taylor, as the carrier seeks to reclaim corporate market
share. Taylor, who joined
the airline from the same role at Starwood Hotels & Resorts, spoke to BTN
transportation editor Michael B. Baker about the direction the new team is
BTN: What are
your priorities in your new role?
Taylor: I've held
town halls now in every destination and division. It's given me a very good
viewpoint because I've taken the time to listen to everyone and what are their
hurdles, how should I support them and what should be the priorities so we are
the easiest sales organization to do business with. We're adding over 130 sales
associates globally. Part of that is a new
vice president reporting to me, Chris DeGroot. Our core focus will be our
very strong domestic business, which makes up 80 percent of our business, but internationally,
we need to be more globally effective and ramp up the revenue and profitability
of our international routes.
Of course, there is the empowerment of our sales teams. We've
already started reducing some of the approval processes for them, making it
easier for them to get through their day, and making things as streamlined and
simple as possible. We are producing more tools for them. That includes a
customer portal, and we'll be disseminating those by the end of 2017. We have a
lot in place, but everyone is really passionate about the fact that sales is now
front and center. We're ramping up the deployment and spending more time and
effort on our international business and point-of-sale, as well.
BTN: What will
the customer portal entail?
Taylor: We're working
on a platform for the corporate customers and also our top travel professionals:
a dashboard of results and a great way for us to disseminate specials and
market initiatives and payment initiatives. And that's this year.
BTN: What other
positions will you add with the sales team growth?
decided to start managing the group business again. We will start deploying
against our great group customers for meetings, incentives and conferences. Many
of those [130 salespeople] will be deployed against more corporate customers
but some of our great group accounts, as well. The corporate customers and our
large TMC partners are very happy that we are bringing on more people. Some of
the sales team are stretched, and this would mean we have better resources to manage
our current accounts and also we can spend a lot of time on new accounts and
account acquisitions. It's important that we extend the number of verticals and
do that domestically and internationally. We're strong in many sectors, but
there are some industries where we could do with additional time and focus and
Internationally, we need to be more globally effective and ramp up the revenue and profitability of our international routes."
BTN: What do you
have planned to improve relationships with corporate buyers?
bring on a dedicated customer engagement director to make sure that when we do
have customer engagement—whether that be a sales call, an event or a trade show—we
have superb branding and are on point with our messaging and that we're more
innovative and exciting. That's along with making sure that with these extra
feet on a street, we have a lot more customer exposure. That's where we are
ramping up the number of activities we do with customers and making sure we are
getting out to new markets where we may not have had such a presence before,
not only new geographic locations but new industries. For example, we have a
great deployment [of salespeople] in New York and the entire region: Boston,
Philadelphia, etc. We're adding substantially to that over the coming months so
we can see more customers and make sure that we are servicing those customers'
requests quicker. Speed to market is something we have spent many hours on as a
team, so we're working on reducing hurdles, approval processes, removing caps
on flex funds; we're going at it very aggressively. We're [also] starting an
advisory board. In the past, we did a corporate day and a travel agent day and
might have 100 customers in one room. Now, we would like to have a more thoughtful
approach with key decision makers to bring them in behind the curtain and make
sure we involve them as we build and develop anything. We are putting together
a very senior corporate customer advisory board, and it will be global.
BTN: How are you
leveraging American's partnerships with other carriers like Japan Airlines?
have the joint business with both JAL and our IAG partners, and we work
extremely closely with them. When I have my team meetings, they are at the
meetings. We leverage each other's networks and sales teams quite effectively.
My team in Asia/Pacific is based in the JAL office in Tokyo. In London, we are
based at the British Airways head office. I was just in London working on our
hub initiatives, our joint initiatives with BA, and we decided on which point
of sale, who can most effectively manage which customer and how to extend our
reach. We've met with JAL and BA this year already six times.
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