Tammy Routh Marriott International SVP of global sales Share Editor-in-chief Elizabeth West: You were appointed to lead global sales in October 2016. Looking back, how ready were you for its challenges?Working for a company like Marriott, there are so many different job opportunities, but this is the job I targeted for years. I did everything I could do to prepare myself, so I was ready and I was excited. I had watched my previous leaders who were amazing. I learned so much from them, but I also had in the back of my mind what might I do differently.Such as?Marriott has an incredibly strong culture for B2C. I have always wanted—and we are absolutely making huge strides—to make sure our CEO and all our leaders think of B2B equally with B2C at every turn. When our developers go out and sell owners on new hotels, for example, they talk about [the value of] our amazing loyalty program, [the value of] our technology. We need to talk about the value of our global sales organization. It's a huge a strategic asset.A month after you took the lead sales position, Marriott finalized its acquisition of Starwood. How did you merge the global team?To complicate it further, we took that opportunity to bring in the Ritz-Carlton global sales team, which had been independent. My job was to [determine] organizational design and to [merge] the best thinking among three organizations. With the acquisition, we also knew we would be impacting peoples' lives. That part was hard. We spent months interviewing people to understand how they worked and why. We utilized our customers to understand how they wanted to be sold to. We did that due diligence and, of course, pulled all the data from the sales teams and the properties. At the end of the day, we were able to cover every customer that was formerly handled by Starwood or Ritz-Carlton or Marriott. I was very proud of that. You were one of the chief architects of Marriott's meetings commission reduction to 7 percent. As a leader, how do you manage that through the organization? It is not easy to do something you know is going to be unpopular with customers. I had to really believe in this, and I do. Some of our salespeople have built business and relationships with their customer base for 20 or 30 years. Asking them to deliver these difficult messages, we knew there would be emotion involved. We did a lot of work upfront making sure our people understood why we would be forced to take such a bold, difficult move and take as much emotion out as possible. I just read this book and one chapter was titled Clear Is Kind, Unclear Is Unkind. And I think that is true.How did you distill the commission rationale to its clearest point? If you looked at the financials, our group intermediary commission payments were growing at faster rates than our group intermediary revenues. That's not sustainable. Almost every day, somebody that once bought direct from us started to use a third party, where the business model is to share the 10 percent commission with the customer. The commission had become a revenue stream for the customer, and that's not really what the commission was meant to do. We would be terrible business operators if we allowed this to continue. It was hard to have some of our big customers unhappy with it, but I knew with conviction that it was the right thing. You mentioned the new Bonvoy loyalty program in talking about some of Marriott's biggest assets. Loyalty can be a tension point for corporate buyers. Have you represented corporate interests there? We were on the [Bonvoy] committee talking about how we need to think about loyalty with our corporate customers. There are two ways corporates tend to look at loyalty: It is something that can drive compliance out of the travel program, or if we work together, we can make sure that we are creating a powerful loyalty program in terms of traveler satisfaction and offering value-added products, amenities, services, recognition and digital technology that make the travelers' lives easier on the road. We brought our Bonvoy team into a customer advisory board meeting in North America. I've been very happy about that dialogue. Our customers are coming up with great ideas. Talk to me about how you view competition. It seems like Marriott has a broader focus on OTAs and digital leaders like Amazon. We have traditional competitors like Hyatt, Hilton, IHG. They've got great hotels, so we, of course, keep an eye on them just as they keep an eye on us. At the end of the day, we spend the most time thinking about the Google, the Amazon, the Expedias of the world. [These are the entities] that could disrupt all of us overnight. This, again, is why it's critical to stay close to our customers, the strategic thinkers that push us to think differently. Then, it's critical for someone like me to be at the table with our leadership to say, "This is how B2B works, and this is how we may need to invest."