Thomas Reinsborg, SAS (Scandinavian Airlines) Head of Sales for Norway, is ready to share his experience in sales management as a mentor for HSMAI Region Europe’s Mike Leven Mentor Program. He has also joined the HSMAI Region Europe Sales Advisory Board.
Thomas boasts a comprehensive career in tech and telecom sales as well as aviation, most recently in SAS and as board member in BARIN (the Board of Airline Representatives In Norway) and Norwegian Tourism Partner, in addition to years in TeliaSonera and global telecom company Telenor, to mention a few.
“Working with sales in the travel and hospitality industry isn’t really all that different from what I experienced in tech and telecom,” he ponders. “We live in times of change and reorganization, in which fewer people are expected to deliver more, so it all boils down to being able to lead in a reality marked by changes, bereft of old tools under expectations to perform better. The changes don’t necessarily have to be significant, but looking at how sales proceedings have been carried out over the years, in Norway we now see a 50/50 share between B2C and B2B, with the former distinguished by a huge increase in digital interaction, such as online booking.”
Room for no further workforce reductions
“I think it is safe to say that although the industry has grown, the individual companies have been downsized to such a degree that I find it hard to believe there will be fewer of us in the years to come,’ Thomas Reinsborg says, adding “We will, however, need a different type of sales resources in the future, with a clear distinction between tech savviness and sales abilities, because while we will definitely need technological skills in sales there’s always the risk of losing sight of the commercial aspects – the ‘east is east, and west is west, and never the twain shall meet’ of sales and technology, if you will.”
“Would it be correct to say that the technological development in travel and hospitality in many ways render the industry an extension of the IT industry, albeit within a very particular market segment?”
An IT-assisted retail approach
“Well, first I have to say that I find it more interesting to look ahead than to assume a retrospective take on things. Especially in aviation we see the development of NDC (Next Distribution Capabilities), and companies such as Amadeus playing a key role, with few and weaker competitors, especially in Europe. In many ways I see us moving towards retail, where they’ve been better at making use of the market’s window of opportunity, which is also where I think the airline industry stands to really make a forward leap, assisted by big data, AI and robotics,” Reinsborg explains.
According to him SAS’ experiments with a Messenger chatbot, still in beta, bears much promise, even if there’s every reason to be cautious.
“Of course we meet challenges, such as certain companies’ failure to respect privacy issues, but with the European Union’s GDPR in place, and the serious parties’ eagerness to comply, I am confident that we will get there.”
Thomas Reinsborg has also given much thought to what it takes to succeed as a sales executive in today’s travel and hospitality industry:
“The industry is very relation centric, with perhaps more internal ‘hospitality’ than the situation calls for, by which I’m not referring to excessive use of expense accounts, of course, but it seems to me that there’s a lot of giving out there, in expectance of return on that investment, I suppose. Maybe we should try to mutually improve each other’s ability to reinforce one another’s strengths,” he suggests.
“I am certain that HSMAI’s Mike Leven Mentor Program is such an initiative, paving the way for bilateral professional growth. Those who succeed in our industry, or indeed in any industry, have often had the benefit of being mentored. Sadly not all businesses pay much attention to that kind of support, but to me it offers a unique opportunity for travel and hospitality professionals to systemize it, and it is a two-way-street, you know. Certainly the mentors bring a lot to the table, but so do the mentees these days.”
A program with potential
“To me this is an excellent opportunity to contribute industry know-how through HSMAI’s large network,” he says, adding:
“I have yet to see initiatives similar to HSMAI’s Mike Leven Mentor Program, except, of course for our internal SAS programs, and I’m sure it’ll pay off for everyone involved.”
“What do you consider to be your personal strengths?”
“Haha, always an interesting question, that, but if I have to answer, I’d say the ability to see people, to identify a goal and allow the individual a certain liberty to solve the challenges as he or she sees fit. Fact of the matter is that my team quite often knows better than me,” he says, expanding on the issue:
“I have undergone enough 360-degree evaluations to know that I’m seen as a listening, pleasant and funny guy, able to demonstrate both seriousness and merriment, with a hint of self-irony. I find that it generally makes for a good mood and work environment.”
Thomas Reinsborg doesn’t have any particular expectations with respect to his future mentees, but says that he assumes that HSMAI will pick its candidates based on their managerial skills, through a careful selection process.
A very welcome addition
“I have to say that the smartest choice would be someone not engaged in my own line of work,” he says, explaining:
“I’d only be too caught up in how they work, rather than committing myself to the coaching I am after all supposed to carry out.”
“What do you hope to achieve as a Mike Leven Mentor Program mentor?”
“I have the highest expectations, and for me this truly is a golden opportunity to not only influence a mentee, but to learn from him or her as well, which is what I find so appealing about a mentor-mentee relationship,” Thomas Reinsborg concludes.
“We are absolutely thrilled to have Thomas on the team,” says HSMAI Region Europe President and CEO Ingunn Hofseth, and then adds: “His background in tech and telecom, as well as in the airline industry, provides a very useful mix for travel and hospitality professionals dealing with just those lines of business on a daily basis. We are very happy to welcome him on board.”