Archive for August, 2009

Are You Memorable?

August 30th, 2009

We are all looking for business and ways to get the word out.

How can you be sure your message is being heard?

Get Aggressive with Your Marketing

  • Have a great website that really demonstrates your expertise
  • Create a weblog (Blog)
  • Toot your horn on what is so great about you
  • Have a great brochure
  • Have the best business card you can get

Focus on Customer Service

  • Be attentive to your customer’s uniqueness
  • Outline in clear terms what your agreement is
  • Ask for 3 things when you deliver a great product or service
    • Testimonial
    • Referral
    • Repeat business

Schmooze

  • Network
    • Get to know THEM first
    • Don’t “data dump”
    • Be ready with your elevator pitch
  • Build compatible partnerships and praise their work
  • Know your competition and when they might be a great choice

Get Involved

  • Don’t just be a card carrying member
  • Embrace every opportunity to be on panels or do public speaking
  • Join networking groups that stimulate growth
  • Volunteer your talents for the benefit of your industry

Sharpen Your Skills

  • Read journals on your industry and related industries
  • Join social online networks and contribute to group blogs
  • Learn a new skill that will enhance your product or service
  • Ask for advise
  • Attend webinars

Stand Out

  • Dress for success
  • Do your homework in getting to know them and allow them to “paint the canvas”
  • Be a problem solver
  • Tell them a story about how your product or service was helpful to another client

A Powerful Elevator Pitch
The goal of creating an elevator pitch is to craft a statement that explains to someone — without any experience in your industry what you do, how you do it, and who you do it for. It should be straightforward and easy to understand and digest.
Here is a really simple formula you can use as a basis for a powerful elevator pitch:

  • Part I: Ask the other person a question that identifies a common problem. This engages them and gives you a lead-in to Part II.
  • Part II: Give a boiled down version of what you do and how it solves the problem you identified in Part I.
  • Part III: Provide a call to action that specifically tells the other person what you want them to do now.

What’s your elevator pitch?

Now serving number 44 …

August 16th, 2009


Do you ever feel like just a number?

So many hoteliers are wondering why group business is so far behind last year. The canned answer is the economy. Groups are smaller in size because fewer people are allowed to attend; they are not spending as much on training and development; there are fewer employees because sales are down; groups can’t go to places that have spa or resort in their name; non-essential travel has been cut. While all of these things may be true for several markets, there are markets that continue to travel and the hotel sales team should be prospecting for new business on an ongoing basis.

As an independent meeting planner, I am amazed by the lack of passion and sense of urgency I have experienced in the site selection process. Frequently I have to call the hotel to ask if someone would please respond to my request for a proposal. Once I receive the proposed bid, I have to call back to address several key points that were requested and not addressed. My request for a proposal has not been examined to see how they can best accommodate MY needs … it is just a matter of offering space, rates and dates without satisfying any emotional needs. It is rare that I encounter a benefits sales approach or even a genuine interest in the “pain” that I need help solving … I am simply a number.

I have spent my adult life in the hospitality industry. I love working with my clients and so many become dear friends. That doesn’t happen simply responding to requests with the “take it or leave it” quote. If business is so bad out there, what is the sales team doing that is more important than responding to a request in a memorable way? It isn’t about the lowest rate or the most attachments to documents that I have to sift through to get answers to my questions. It is about being excited to create a lifelong relationship, being thorough in responding to specific needs that are mentioned, asking valuable questions that let me know you understand my goals and being creative in presenting the additional benefits that put the icing on a well thought out proposal.

Because of the experience described above and my lifelong network of professional colleagues throughout the world, I saw a need to design a sales training program for hotels. What would it take to ignite the sales team? Just as the needs of each meeting planner is different, so are the needs of each hotel sales team. first analyze the needs of sales organization.

Phase one is a mystery shopping service where we contact the hotel with 5 different types of groups from various areas of the country and varying market segments in an attempt to shop 5 different group or catering sales managers. These 5 leads all come through different lead sources to also shop the effectiveness of 5 major revenue streams. The results are given on a standards scorecard as well as the complete written dialogue of the mystery shopping experience. Each shop experience gives a written recommendation on ways to enhance the marketing tool and suggestions for how that proposal could have been improved.

BONUS ~ At least two of the shopping experiences will also include competitive responses to the same lead. Here you will see how quickly primary and secondary competitors are responding as well as the way they have addressed the specific needs and to what degree they engage in a benefits sales approach. The results do not reveal competitor rates that were quoted.

Phase two is a customized on-site training program. Based on the results from Phase One, we know which areas required the greatest amount of attention and each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Some of the training is done on an individual one-on-one basis and some can be conducted as a group. Several support pieces are required from the hotel prior to arrival to point me in the right direction. A complete checklist is requested in my initial proposal to the executive responsible for deciding on engaging my services.

BONUS ~ The sales staff helps to write a living training program that can be used as a refresher course or taught when new members join the team. The standards that are set and tools that are designed truly clarify the roles, goals and responsibilities of each team member and it gets them back on course in a positive uplifting environment. The sales staff recognizes the investment in their training and it stimulates new excitement for the property and several new, creative ideas.

All of this training impacts the customer experience in a positive way. The client will recognize the smile and the genuine interest in the response they receive. If they need to leave a voicemail for the sales manager at your hotel, the client will smile at the creative prompt to leave a message rather than groan until they hear the beep. If a voicemail is left for them, the client will want to get back to that sales manager because they respect one another and are building a bond. The client will look forward to booking business at your hotel this time and in the future. They become part of the sales team and look for other opportunities within their organization or will provide outside introductions and referrals if asked.

Selling is not just taking an order. It’s not about getting to the “close”. Selling is step one to building a relationship. It is about finding the need and genuinely responding to the “pain” in a way that encourages a partnership ~ not just for this time but for a lifetime.

Challenged to produce a meeting on a budget?

August 6th, 2009

Quick tips on how to save money on your meeting …

  • Find great hotels in Second Tier Cities or find great hotels near a major city with easy access to downtown. Center city hotels tend to charge higher rates and often there are additional taxes to consider which increase the overall cost with no added value. An added benefit is that a second- or third-tier city may need and want your business more than the most visited cities. Additionally, their cost of doing business is often lower for ancillary items so they pass these savings on to you.
  • Work with the destination Convention & Visitors Bureau. Ask the CVB for free collateral and discount coupons to area attractions. They may also be able to add value in the form of sponsorship of transportation, promotional mailings, a meal function, airport greeting, tchotchkes, etc.
  • Consider alternate patterns. Resorts are busiest on weekends and city hotels are busiest mid-week. Find the best pattern for the venue to secure the best rate.
  • Be flexible! One of the most powerful negotiating tools in this environment is your flexibility with dates, space and city. Even in the tightest market hotels will have holes to fill so openness to suggestions about items such as location, room configuration and date pattern, can save bottom line dollars.
  • Ensure guests are checked in under your room block to avoid attrition penalties. Organizations are going as far as penalizing attendees for not checking in under the group room block. If an association gets hit with a high bill for attrition, it could force them to lose a substantial amount of money and possibly increase membership rates to compensate for it. This is a good incentive for attendees to book rooms properly.Have the hotel check your registration list to see if there are members booked outside of the block so you can identify offenders and request credit toward attrition.
  • Hotels on a regular basis send “Hot dates” to us. They need to fill and usually offer incredible incentives to clients for booking over those needed dates.
  • Save on meeting room rental by serving food in the room or allowing the hotel to book an evening meal function in that room. Think of every inch in the hotel as real estate and know that revenue is expected to be generated for that space.
  • Get sponsorship from vendors who add value to your meeting attendees.
  • Buying in volume can save. Find out what other groups may be ordering for meals to save on preparation and it should also provide a savings. The same may be true for renting furniture, linens or AV. See if other groups are using similar equipment on days prior or following to save on set up or tear down time and fees.
  • Get multiple bids. Let your hotel salesperson know what other hotels within their competitive set have received your lead. They tend to get highly competitive when they know others are involved in the bidding process. Be clear on your wish list to see who is really listening and wants to “ease your pain”. The bid process will give you hints on attention to detail that make a statement on the projected outcome of your meeting.
  • Get outside quotes from other vendors. Often an outside contractor may quote a lower rate to get in the door. Outside quotes may be matched to keep the revenue in house and it really provides a smoother flow for your meeting.
  • Get your speaker’s AV needs in advance and have them sign off on it. Send them an update prior to the meeting to make sure that there are no changes before they land on site.
  • Purchase supplies and other items on site to cut down on shipping costs. Check with the hotel to see if they provide a meeting planner toolbox with office supply items such as scissors, packing tape, stapler, markers, etc. Consider printing items at the end destination and having the printer deliver them to the hotel. Files can be sent electronicly and collated and ready for your arrival. We always take a portable printer and laptop for last minute meeting needs.

  • Negotiate important concessions into your contract. Do not assume the hotel is going to offer the same things that you may have received prior. VIP amenities, upgrades to viewed rooms or suites, late check out, staff rooms, etc may be items on your “wish list” that need to be communicated prior to signing a contract. Negotiate for a higher guest room minimum percentage and “comp” room’s ratio.

  • Make sure that your attorney or legal staff reviews all binding agreements. Most employees are not equipped to deal with contracts, agreements and the host of signed documents necessary to produce a quality meeting. While your meeting planning staff is well versed in protecting your interests, make sure that you have consulted with your legal department or procurement group before signing legally binding documents. The extra step will prevent problems down the road that could cause major roadblocks in producing a successful meeting.

  • Carefully manage your guarantees for food & beverage. Often, planners or clients will over-guarantee the number of attendees, in effect throwing money away. If you have a solid group history, this can be like gold when it comes to mining the data necessary to figure out how many people will actually be served. It is also important to consider the time and location of the function in determining the appropriate guarantee. And don’t forget, venues always allow for an overset of 3-5%, which should also be taken into account.

  • Lock in your contract now. Travel costs are rising but meetings are going strong. Work with your planner to do a thorough site selection and lock in your contract now to protect against the projected future increases. Consider multi-year contracts with performance clauses. Hotels would rather have contracts in place than trade for higher room rates closer in so use that to your advantage.

  • Hold pre and post convention meetings. Meet with the credit manager on a daily basis. Review your reports every morning to make sure there are no surprises.

  • Call A2Z Meetings & Events to negotiate your contract so you are sure to get the best value with service assurance agreements for your next meeting!
As seen in Smart Meetings Magazine