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Sales secrets: How MNCs can unlock APAC growth with Marriott International's blueprint

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April 19, 2024 | 9 min read

Marriott International's Rajeev Menon (president of APEC) has vastly expanded the hotel's presence in the APAC region over the last 23 years. As part of LinkedIn APAC's Take the Lead Executive interview series, he gives his top three learnings for multinational corporations to achieve similar growth.

A man and woman sit down to discuss growing MNCs in APAC

Go where growth is, they say. APAC, home to 60% of the global population, is one of the world's fastest-growing economic regions. Today, the Asian share of global GDP is over 54%, whereas Europe and North America combined now account for less: about 33%.

The region’s rapidly expanding middle-class population (along with its increasing purchasing power) is expected to reach 3.49 billion people by 2030. This creates vast consumer markets and presents significant opportunities for MNCs across various sectors, new products and services.

Rajeev Menon has experienced the region’s rise — and the business growth that comes with it — first-hand. When he joined Marriott International some 23 years ago, the hospitality group had one hotel in India. Today, it operates close to 150 hotels and resorts in the country - and continues to expand and grow.

As Marriott International’s president of APEC (Asia Pacific excluding China), Rajeev has led the company’s incredible growth in the region, which, in 2023 alone, included over 60 property openings and over 80 deals signed across 13 markets.

He sat down with LinkedIn’s Grace Kerrison, head of sales solutions APAC, in a recent episode of Take the Lead, LinkedIn’s executive series for insightful conversations with regional thought leaders. And through his sharing, we uncovered three deep sales lessons that B2B sellers can use to supercharge their own revenue outcomes and win in new growth markets like APAC.

Lesson 1: Leverage tech for insights to identify and invest in high potential growth spots

With over a billion people crossing borders and travel behaviors constantly evolving, a key contributing factor to Marriott’s success in the region is the company’s ability to accurately identify and effectively prioritize high-potential customer segments.

“In the past, we were very reliant on travelers from the West,” said Rajeev. “Domestic travel was a very small portion of our guest mix.”

As APAC grew wealthier and outbound travel strengthened, however, Marriott quickly realized that domestic and intra-regional travelers were a highly valuable customer segment. India, for example, recorded four million trips in 2000 but has the potential to reach over 80 million by 2040.

Rajeev spotted this early. He shared, “About 15 years ago, we were looking at bringing one of our highly successful brands, Fairfield Inn, to India. When we did the research however, we found that ‘Inn’ didn’t have the best connotation, so we repositioned the brand as Fairfield by Marriott. We also learned that Indian travelers expect room service and an onsite restaurant, so while Fairfield Inn in the US only offers a breakfast option, we created these amenities to better meet local needs.

“You simply can’t assume that what works in the West is going to work here. You really have to be very focused on your customers and tailor your offerings accordingly. Today, 61% of our business comes from domestic and intra-regional travel.”

Takeaway for B2B deep sellers

Research your customers and prospects, and use sales intelligence tools to prioritize high potential accounts based on signals that suggest a higher likelihood of closing.

Recognize that APAC is not a singular market. It is a highly diverse region with markets at different levels of economic maturity. This makes it important to prioritize the markets that matter and invest in local research to understand the companies and customer personas in that market.

Sales intelligence tools can do a lot of this heavy lifting, especially when you use alerts and AI to supercharge productivity and save precious time. In fact, LinkedIn and Ipsos has found that 62% of deep sellers (sales reps who have almost 2x higher chances of exceeding their quotas) use sales intelligence tools to prioritize high-potential accounts.

Lesson 2: Leverage technology to quickly access valuable insights, allowing more time to deepen relationships

The hospitality industry thrives on delivering exceptional guest experiences. Marriott, as an early adopter of technological innovations, uses these tools behind the scenes to take over routine tasks. This frees up time for its people to focus on building meaningful connections with guests.

“Today’s customers are very clear about the experience they expect. For example, when guests call our customer engagement centers to make reservations, it used to take our agents five to 10 minutes to search for, and learn, their journey. Now, thanks to the AI we’re using, they get that information in seconds,” revealed Rajeev.

“What this means is that they can spend the rest of the time really engaging the customer, building a personal rapport and tailoring the experience. That makes the customer feel special.”

Takeaway for B2B deep sellers

Build and strengthen buyer relationships by grasping local nuances and nurturing trust.

Long-term relationships with buyers lead to revenue, again and again. But what makes for a trusted relationship can vary by market. Deep sellers use sales intelligence tools to understand local nuances and tailor their outreach to engage buyers the way they want to be engaged.

LinkedIn and Ipsos’s research found that a trusted relationship can be an important decision-making factor in B2B sales. Almost three in five surveyed buyers say they have purchased from the same salesperson at least twice and nearly two in three sellers say that they have sold to the same decision maker at least twice. Perhaps even more illuminating is the fact that over half (54%) of buyers say that they bought from the same seller even after they moved to another company.

Lesson 3: Think global, act local: Achieve bottom-up innovation with hyper-localization.

While leaders are expected to set direction, they don’t always have all the answers. When Covid-19 hit, Marriott, like the rest of the hospitality industry, was faced with a crisis of unprecedented magnitude. Rajeev credits the company’s agility and adaptability to the intel and insights that they gleaned from their in-market teams.

“During Covid-19, having full teams on the ground across our key markets was just a godsend,” he said. “In large companies, you often see innovation being pushed top-down. For the first time, we saw innovation happening from the ground up. Our teams understood the needs of their market, which was very different across the region, and this enabled us to respond in localized ways very, very quickly.”

On top of that, considering what was shared earlier about having over a billion people moving and traveling globally, sales intelligence tools can help uncover hidden allies in new markets.

Takeaway for B2B deep sellers

Hidden allies can reveal timely intel for relevant outreach.

While sellers often focus on decision makers and the buying committee, other connections, such as people in your network who know the customer organization, can be an important source of intel. The same way Marriott relied on its local teams to tailor their response according to how each market reacted to Covid-19, B2B sellers can leverage hidden allies to find paths into a new account, benefit from warm introductions, and walk into a meeting with a better understanding of the customer.

68% of deep sellers strongly agree that connecting with people outside of the buying committee to learn what is happening at a company helps them move a deal forward. LinkedIn’s platform data also suggests that sellers who interact with hidden allies see an average of 17% faster deal cycles.

With the frequency of global travelers and movements across the world, it’s hard to keep up with connections. Leveraging the right sales intelligence tools can help track and accelerate the discovery of hidden allies.

Inspired? Catch up on the full conversation in this episode of Take the Lead.

You can also go deeper into these lessons by getting your own copy of LinkedIn’s Deep Sales: The B2B Sales Playbook to Boost Revenue in 2024.

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