What does Harley-Davidson sell? It’s not bikes.

What we sell isn’t actually a bike. It’s the ability for a mild-mannered accountant to dress in leather, ride through a small town, and have people be afraid of him.”* – Clyde Fessler, former Harley-Davidson VP

Clyde said that, 15 years ago. He was the speaker at the Crowne Plaza lunch at the IHG Conference last year and I was lucky enough to be there to hear this. I think what he spoke about is a good way for us to relate to our business and what we must accomplish at each of our facilities. It doesn’t matter what brand you are part of; there is a take away for all of our Expotel hotels in this message.

customer experienceThe point of the above is…It’s the guest experience we sell, not ‘a hotel room’. You know that anyway, but Clyde’s quote is a nice way of reminding us creatively of what we MUST be about.

Black & Decker, the company that makes electric drills for consumers, used to tell its sales and product development people, “You think the customer is buying a drill from us. They’re not. They are buying a hole. That’s what they need, a hole in a wall. If you start thinking like that – what is in the customer’s head as their need, maybe an unmet need, not ‘what do we sell’ – you will find you are much closer to what the customer needs, and they’ll grow to love you for it.”

*All Harley-Davidson speakers tell a version of this quote, to show how focused they are on the customer experience and that they know how they make the customer feel about themselves (valued, loved, brave, successful, looked after, a friend, refreshed, acknowledged, understood, connected with, ‘yes, I made the right choice with this brand’, happy, safe, confident, ‘at home’, free to be myself, whatever…) is the essential component of their brand experience. I first saw it in a book by Dave Ulrich, John Zenger & Norm Smallwood called, ‘Results-Based Leadership‘.

I challenge each of you to sell the guest experience; if we don’t have a guest experience, then we must strive at our hotels to develop one. Each hotel out there has the same features; it’s the benefits that will set us apart and the most important benefit is the GUEST EXPERIENCE!

Have you sold it lately?


Kerry Ranson is the President/COO of Expotel Hospitality.  Kerry is also currently an officer in the IHG Owners Association and will chair the association in 2015.

Kerry began his hospitality management career in the food and beverage arena with Ruby Tuesday’s Restaurant chain. He then entered the lodging side of hospitality, with Mirage opening the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi. Kerry also spent time with Wilson Hotel Management Company. In 1999, Kerry joined Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) as an area director, where he drove both occupancy and ADR by implementing structured revenue management systems at each of his 20 plus properties. Kerry was with IHG until he joined the start-up team of HP-Hotels in 2002. Kerry grew HP Hotels to a Top 100 Management Company. Since joining Expotel Kerry has moved the hospitality portfolio from 10 to 18 hotels in 3 years.

His professional culture has been dominated by one basic philosophy: “Consistency developed through systems execution is the groundwork for any successful venture.” If a property has proper systems in place, the hotel can withstand any conditions.


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