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Eoin McGrath, How I Became a Sales Manager

Posted on: 2021-01-25 13:03:34Staff  |  Belfast  |  Northern Ireland

An Interview with Eoin McGrath
Give a brief outline of your career to date.
During university I had been on a work placement at the La Mon Hotel and after graduating Isecured a full-time role there in Sales and Events Management for 5 years. I left to work in sales within the real estate industry before returning to hotels sales after a short 18 month period in house sales, as I soon discovered that is where my passion was. Selling hotels and houses requires a completely different mindset and approach.
Since joining Hastings Hotels in 2016 I have grown through the company in sales management roles, to most recently responsible for international luxury sales, which requires extensive travel to meet with high end clients to secure leisure travel to our hotel properties. I am immensely proud to assist with leadership and strategy for hotel sales, marketing and revenue opportunities as part of my overall job role within the company.
What was your favourite subject at school?        
Business studies because I enjoyed  learning the processes of doing business, and could understand how it translated into a ‘real business’.
Did you go on to further/higher education, if so what did you study and where?
I graduated from Ulster university, Coleraine with a First Class Honours in BSc Hons Business and Psychology.
How did you get into your area of work?
I decided to take a placement year before final year. It was never my intention to do so because I wanted to move onto the next stage of my education – either a PGCE or other postgrad research. But as most of my university friends had secured placements elsewhere, and the fear of having to make new friends all over again (immature view looking back now) in a new university year, prompted me to apply for a placement position in a hotel that was offering a 9-month role. This turned out to be the best decision I could’ve made as it was my first step into the tourism industry and helped me realise my passion.  
Is this what you always wanted to do?
No, my intention was to become a teacher, to continue education and complete a PGCE oversees, or, upon my final results, I was urged to go down the route of completing a research PhD in Human Resources. But the attraction to hotels was so strong, I decided against it. 
Were there any particular essential qualifications or experience needed?
Not essential qualifications per se but what is required, is experience with people, knowledge of the product and a personality that can create collaboration and instant trust. Above all, I would say trust is most important in my field of sales. For example, I do not always have the opportunity to show the client/buyer the hotel facilities in person, only via presentation and therefore they need to have the confidence and trust that what I am selling, is what their client will experience- and beyond!
Are there alternative routes into the job?
Yes, studying hotel management courses at the various Further and Higher Education institutions, and I am pleased to say there are many esteemed educators in Northern Ireland doing a great job of training our future leaders in hospitality. Most recently, I was appointed the Chair of the Institute of Hospitality for Northern Ireland, which is the education body for the industry, promoting lifelong learning and professionalism.
What are the main personal skills your job requires?
Communication and awareness of business opportunity.
What does a typical day entail?
I go to bed early-ish, so I wake normally about 5.30/6am, and if I am not in the office, or working on emails from my phone from 7.30am, I feel the day has run away from me. Right now, my day is largely different to pre-COVID where I would have been preparing for an overseas event, company research, early airport travel, adjusting to time zones and running off adrenaline for days. This buzz came from the interest in our hotels and Northern Ireland and securing business whilst on the road - enjoying a glass of wine or coffee with the client to tell them all about what we have to offer.
Now, I am thankful for my background in events management, as 90% of my day is dealing with wedding enquiries regarding moving dates, latest restrictions and capacities, future enquiries, contracting, virtual site inspections and regular industry Zoom calls.
I’m pleased that at this challenging time, I can still be at the end of the phone for customers and for couples who are anxious about planning their special day, to reassure them and take them step-by-step, albeit virtually, through our socially distanced function rooms and help them make plans to ensure their day is still the one they’ve dreamt of.
What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?
Time is definitely a challenge and I struggle to switch off. Even when I’m on annual leave I refuse to auto-forward emails, as I want to be aware of everything, even when I am not present. I don’t see that as a bad thing. I think it shows care. I always do find time to enjoy being off-site from the hotels or not travelling.
The best part of my job is meeting new people from all over the world, and learning from other hotel colleagues from different countries.
Why is what you do important?
Not only does my job provide sales revenue to Hastings Hotels, but it also creates a destination appeal for Northern Ireland on a global stage when I travel to countries, promoting our experiences, hotels, attractions and people.
How has COVID-19 impacted your business/role?
COVID-19 has stalled all international travel for both me and my clients, however I have continued to keep in touch with my them remotely. I have been managing the enquiries for the weddings, conferencing, events and meetings and working with clients to reschedule, not only for this year, but for some years down the line. I know more about our systems and procedures than pre-COVID, so that can only be a good thing!
What adjustments have you had to make?
I was always flexible pre-COVID, as I conducted my business in different time zones depending on client location, but I have certainly developed this skill further and still continued to keep the contact as much as possible remotely instead.
What advice would you give anyone looking to follow a similar career path?
Don’t be put off by the perception of hospitality at the moment as a bad future career option. We are resilient and will bounce back when the time is right!
If you weren’t doing this what would you like to do?
Running my own boutique B&B somewhere in France- I love cooking and baking, so this would allow me to do this without getting too stressed with hundreds of guests.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to yourself on your first day?
Make an effort to meet as many people as possible, and don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’.
Describe your ideal day off...
I wake up early and make my favourite breakfast of poached eggs with smashed avocado, chillis, red onion and siracha sauce, and crispy bacon, just like the Grand Central Hotel’s top brunch menu item! Followed by a walk with our dog Buddha he’s a pug, so only a short walk, followed by an afternoon in the kitchen cooking up a storm for dinner.  
And finally, what’s the key to any successful job search?
Chose a job not only by its benefits. Given the amount of time each day you spend at work, it’s important you really enjoy what you do.