Selling the Intangibles

» Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Tom Seaver (Major League Baseball Hall of Famer) once said, “The concentration and dedication to the intangibles are the deciding factors between who won and who lost.”  I firmly believe this statement is profoundly accurate, and I believe it’s applicable to several aspects of business, personal accomplishments and other areas of life.  Furthermore, I strongly believe the intangibles are particularly relevant when in comes to soliciting the U.S. Federal Government.

As Director of National Sales for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, my subject matter expertise is hotels.  I feel some of the points made in this document could perhaps be the most valuable contribution I have given to my fellow SGTP affiliates.  As a result, the strategies outlined in this manuscript will be strictly from a hotels sales perspective.

Three highly under-rated values (intangibles) that a supplier/hotelier can offer a federal government buyer that meet important government criteria are diversitysecurity and corporate responsibility.



Today, every government organization has diversity as one of its goals.  If your company can help a potential government buyer reach its diversity goal, your offer becomes a far more valuable asset to that government buyer.  There are several government recognized categories of diversity.  In many cases, the federal government will specifically “set-aside” solicitations for which only the business classifications listed below qualify.  Below is general list of diversity categories.

  • Small Business:  Small business size standards are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).  The guidelines are industry specific based on either dollar volume and/or number of employees.  A small hotel, motel and/or casino hotel is defined as one not exceeding more than $6 million in gross annual receipts or total income. This total income includes all affiliate average over a firm’s latest three fiscal years as reported on the firm’s federal income tax.
  • Woman Owned Business:  A business that is owned and controlled (51% or greater) by a woman or a group of women.
  • Veteran Owned Business:  A business that is owned (51% or greater) by a veteran or a group of veterans.
  • Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business:  A business that is owned by one or more disabled veteran or veterans.
  • Small Disadvantaged Business:  A business that is owned (51% or greater) by a person(s) who is/are socially or economically disadvantaged.  These include: African Americans, Asian/Pacific Islander Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans.
  • Hub-Zoned Business:  A business in a distressed area defined as a “Historically Underutilized Business” (HUB) Zone.



Obviously, security at lodging destinations is top concern for government organizations.  Guaranteeing the safety of military personnel and all people is unarguably the most valuable objective for any business.  In recent experiences, I have discovered hotels which offer outstanding security services and solid security protocols/procedures have proven to be viewed as true intangibles by government decision makers.  Below are some examples of worthwhile and advantageous security features.

  1. Video surveillance covering all entrances and exits of the hotel.
  2. “On property” security that is visible and frequently “walks” the hotel.
  3. Signs at all entrances advising those who enter about property security and high-tech video surveillance.
  4. Only one accessible entrance for the hotel in the late evening.
  5. The monitoring of all buses, vans and other large vehicles parked at the hotel over night.
  6. The registration of all vehicles at the front desk.
  7. The training of all employees and executive staff to report suspicious activity.
  8. The hotel’s participation in monthly meetings with area hotels and law enforcement officials to discuss best practices and all recent illegal activity in the area.


All businesses both new and existing should serve as models for a healthy workplace with minimal negative environmental impacts.  In order achieve true corporate responsibility, work places need to be environmentally safe, ethically sound, community oriented, and they most also put strong priorities on learning and culture.

Today, most federal government organizations put very high emphasis on the environment.  Collectively these agencies are starting to strictly adhere to EPA standards.  Although specific EPA features and practices can vary from state-to-state, I recommend being proactive and listing all of your environmental initiatives on government solicitations.

Ethics is also clearly a serious initiative, and very strong policies pertain to all government employees.  Businesses that promote scrupulous ethics guidelines usually find themselves in very good graces with government contractors and key constituents.  In short, success is often found by those who promote solid principles and ethics as a matter of course.

Lastly, proper training, learning, professional development and continuing education are huge factors that play into the role of corporate responsibility.  Following these guidelines in chorus with those mentioned above will certainly help any business better solidify a consistent, long-term partnership with the U.S. Government.

Charles H. Green once wrote, “The biggest difference between selling ‘things’ and intangible services is the pivotal role of trust. Trust is even more critical to selling intangible services than it is to selling things.”  In the final analysis, being a leader by proactively understanding what is important and offering those important intangibles to your best customers will speak volumes about your integrity, and thus build trust.  Without a doubt, trust is a very important commodity to the government and will unquestionably prove to be advantageous to your business.

by Chris McLaughlin

Submit a Comment