Melissa Matthews: Looking For the Uncomfortable

Melissa Matthews: Looking For the Uncomfortable

What do you do when you’ve lost your job, your dreams are shattered, you’ve moved back in with your parents, and don’t know what to do next?

For Melissa Matthews, the answer was: Go to a bar. And a chance meeting at that bar set her on a successful sales career in the hospitality industry.

Melissa, now vice president of sales for AZULHospitality Group, shared her career story and insights on sales leadership on the Sales Lead Dog podcast.

From a Bar to the VP’s Office

Melissa didn’t start out pursuing a career in sales or in the hospitality industry. Fresh out of college with a degree in international affairs, she was working for an Arab relations nonprofit in Washington, DC. After 9/11, however, funding for her organization dried up and she found herself with no job and few opportunities.

After moving back in with her parents (an experience she describes as “humbling,”) and having struck out in interview after interview, she met a woman at a bar who had an opening for a sales coordinator at a local hotel managed by AZUL Hospitality Group, a hotel property management services company. Although she knew nothing about sales or the hospitality industry, Melissa interviewed the next day and was hired on the spot.

Since then, she has climbed the career ladder at AZUL Hospitality Group and is now VP of sales. She says the main factor driving her career success has been the support and mentorship of her supervisors and coworkers along the way. In particular, she cites two pieces of advice she received early on:

  • Shine and move on: Once you’ve reached a pinnacle in your current position, look for new challenges. Move on and push yourself. Always look for the uncomfortable.
  • Don’t chase a salary, follow the position. Ask for more opportunity, learning, development, and responsibility. The money will follow.

Thoughts on Sales Leadership in Hospitality

Melissa says that sales in the hospitality industry is not remarkably different from sales in other industries. Like all successful sales professionals, those in hospitality know that it’s all about establishing personal relationships with their customers before trying to sell them anything.

Melissa’s philosophy of sales leadership is simple: Keep your team happy. Make sure they have good work-life balance and support them in their careers, whether they continue in sales or move to other parts of the business. Break the work down into bite-sized pieces and celebrate the small wins as well as the big ones.

What Melissa looks for most in potential sales leaders is hunger for new challenges. She advises new sales leaders not to make changes until they have been in the position for a few months to observe and find out what’s working and what isn’t. Then, get buy-in from the team before implementing any changes.

CRM In the Hospitality Industry

Melissa says that although she appreciates what CRM can do in terms of providing a 360-degree view of the customer, the hospitality industry presents special challenges for CRM solutions. Because of the many different brands in its portfolio, her company uses several different CRM systems, with different terminology and user interfaces that can be difficult to master.

Integration of CRM with other systems, such as property management, reservation, and accounting systems is important in the hospitality industry, but can be difficult to achieve.

For more on Melissa’s insights and experiences in the hospitality industry, listen to her interview on the Sales Lead Dog podcast.