Janelle Zanoni is the Area Director of Group Sales at Marriott International New York. She’s also the Board President of Young Travel Professionals (YTP) New York chapter, the first networking group specifically created to bring together the next generation of travel industry leaders. Just like most hoteliers, she loves to travel!
Tell me about yourself – Personally and professionally?
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and have been in New York City for three years. I hold a double major in Communications and French from the University of California, Santa Barbara. I discovered my passion for different cultures during a year abroad in Lyon, France.
Following graduation, I moved to Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands where I worked on a sailboat and experienced the relaxed island life for six months. The friendly people and beautiful surroundings were marvelous, but I was itching to start my career in hotels. I’ve worked at many properties including The Fairmont San Francisco, the Plaza Hotel, and W New York. I currently oversee a team of Sales Managers who sell 18 Marriott International hotels in New York and Connecticut.
As the director of sales, what are three things people might not know about the company and hotel sales?
Marriott International implemented a new sales structure in 2010 where one centralized office manages the sales efforts of a region instead of an individual team at each property. This allows for streamlined processes, cross-selling opportunities, and increased options for customers.
Moreover, hotel sales is more than offering the lowest rates – it is critical that a successful sales person creates strong bonds with clients and ensuring their deepest needs are met. It is key for a hotel sales person to understand what is most important to the client.
Marriott International works hard to keep strong talent. They encourage movement within departments and even destinations. I was able to make the move from San Francisco to New York with the help of a hotel company, which is obviously a HUGE perk! For anyone that enjoys living in different cities, I highly recommend the hotel industry.
Did you always know you wanted to go into sales in hospitality industry?
I had no idea! I realized I loved to travel at a young age and started looking for a job that would allow me to chase my passion. When I was a Sales Manager, I was able to travel to different cities and countries every month and it was a perfect combination of meeting new people, experiencing new cultures, and getting to know hotels around the world.
Why should women consider roles in sales?
Hotel sales is a heavily female dominated environment in my experience, which is extremely empowering. It is a perfect place for women to learn and grow with a wonderful support system. I never thought I would end up in sales because I didn’t consider myself a cut-throat used car salesman type person, however I realized that I actually wouldn’t be successful in hotel sales if I were like that. I have seen success by being organized, thoughtful, and tenacious with my clients. Once I started to see success, I realized I was extremely competitive and continue to thrive off of hitting my team’s metrics.
What challenges as a woman do you face holding a high powered position in the industry?
Due to the overwhelming number of women in the hotel sales world, I feel fortunate to have minimal challenges with being a female director. The challenge within this industry is knowing which brand, city, and role to choose! I realized I loved working for larger hotel companies with multiple brands because there is so much opportunity for growth and for travel.
What advice do you have for aspiring women trying to break into the hospitality industry? It seems that for any management role you have to start at the front desk position?
I believe there are many paths within the hospitality world. I started as a front desk agent and realized I wanted to be in sales, however many people start in sales or events as coordinators or assistants and work their way up. I recommend seeking out a woman you admire and asking her to be a mentor. I often think about my previous Regional Director of Sales & Marketing and try to embody her methods and actions. It is extremely empowering to be able to schedule a call with someone you admire and ask them for career advice.
“I recommend seeking out a woman you admire and asking her to be a mentor”
Which career or sales book changed your life?
My first General Manager gave me Danny Meyer’s book Setting The Table and I highly recommend it. It is interesting to hear Danny’s history of building a restaurant empire in New York City and how he was successful because he focused on customer and employee satisfaction above all else.
About Janelle Zanoni:
Janelle Zanoni grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and has lived in New York City for three years. She worked at many properties including The Fairmont San Francisco, the Plaza Hotel, and W New York. She now oversees a team of Sales Managers who sell 18 Marriott International hotels in New York and Connecticut. Her most recent adventure was through Southeast Asia – the highlight of which was making new friends and learning to cook in Chiang Mai with her new husband. You can follow her Linkedin here.