Carol Verret Consulting 
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What Do Meeting Planners Want? 
Hotel Sales Managers Want to Know!
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Carol Verret / May 2004
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May 2004

The subject of dealing with and maximizing revenues through third party suppliers is a hot topic. At the recent Mountain Travel Symposium in Banff, at which I was fortunate to present a seminar, this topic was given consideration in the educational program.

I had the opportunity to talk with meeting planners and sitting in on a panel discussion moderated by Lori Cioffi of Meeting and Conventions Magazine. While it is impossible to lump all meeting planners into a uniform group, there was agreement on some issues that are very beneficial to property level sales people.

First of all, it has been my observation that we don't qualify meeting professionals the way we do (or are supposed to do) for our prospective clients. I think this stems from a love/hate relationship with the concept of third party suppliers. There is a feeling that we should be dealing with the end user and the meeting planner stands in our way rather than considering that we have the opportunity to receive business from them that we may otherwise not get.

Perhaps it is a guilt feeling that as an industry, we are not prospecting for groups as effectively as we could. I think this is a valid concern and as sales people, we need to take responsibility for not developing our skills in this area or for not utilizing those skills in this area effectively.

On the other hand, why would we not welcome the opportunity to develop relationships with and explore the contacts of a third party who has access to prospects who we may not be able to reach on our own. It is a vast world of prospects and it is inconceivable that no matter how many prospects we develop, we simply do not have the time or resources to reach every prospect that has the potential to use our property.

What do meeting planners want from property level sales people -- the answers may surprise you:
 

The Selection Process. How do meeting planners make decisions to locate a destination property for their clients? Relationships are a very important part of the process. The meeting planners indicated that they turn to those with whom they have developed relationships through industry associations such as MPI. They contact their franchise sales representatives and use a local property with a contact that they know to refer them to sister properties within their franchise/management group or contact CVBs.
Online Collateral. From these planners, it was clear that they do not have space for vast filing cabinets of meeting planning "kits."  I feel vindicated here as I have been advocating electronic brochures that can be downloaded on an "as needed" basis. The other advantages to this approach are that these can be modified as required and are less expensive than printing four-color kits in the thousands that become outdated long before the supply is exhausted. A well-designed web site including the features that demonstrate a property's functionality for meetings serves as a valuable collateral piece, one that is often accessed before the meeting planner ever approaches the property about a potential client.
Understanding their needs -- qualifying them. While communication styles vary, it is evident that sales people do not ask them how they would like to be communicated with. Hotel sales people do not ask them what they are looking for in a property -- if we did we would discover that it is primarily service and value versus rate.
Franchise Meeting Planner Incentives. This one was a surprise -- they do not accept them nor do they use them as a factor in the buying decision. They all felt that to accept such an incentive was to compromise their integrity with their clients.
Consistency in Rates Across All Channels. I hate to repeat myself but it is critical to the success of group pick up that Internet rates on the web site or the EDCs be in line with all group blocks. In the selection process, if a property's rates are all over the board, it indicates to the meeting planner that the property is not organized and that when the group is booking, the attendees may be able to find better rates using other channels. When this occurs, the attrition rate goes higher than expected and penalty clauses kick in. To have inconsistent rates across the distribution channels compromises the credibility of the hotel.

This is not an exhaustive list but it should give hotel sales departments an indication of what they need to do to maximize their opportunities from third party meeting planners.

Before you rush out to develop relationships with every meeting planner on the planet, take the time to qualify them as to the types of meetings they handle, which market segments they specialize in, if any and use your franchise sales contacts. Maximizing opportunities from the sales resources of your franchise is the subject of a whole other newsletter.



copyright © Carol Verret, 2002-2003-2004

Carol Verret is President of Carol Verret Consulting and Training, a company offering consulting and training seminars to the hospitality industry in the areas of sales and marketing and customer service.  If you missed attending our live webcasts in the Training Byte Series in 2003, you will be glad to know that we are now offering each "Training Byte" in PDF format on our web site. We will not be repeating these webcasts in 2004. To order your copy, please visit http://www.carolverret.com/webcast_training.htm

Watch for our new Training Byte Series for 2004

Verret is a twenty-year veteran of the hotel industry. She arrived in Denver in the midst of an economic downturn and quickly established herself as an expert in sales and marketing in hotel turn-around situations, applying her formula for REVPAR improvement. To learn more about Carol Verret, Consulting and Training, visit her web site at http://www.carolverret.com


 
Contact:
Carol Verret
  3140 S. Peoria St, PMB 436
  Aurora, CO 80014
(303) 618-4065
Web Site: http://www.carolverret.biz
Email: carol@carolverret.biz
Also See: Revenue Management -- The Integration of Revenue Drivers / Carol Verret / March 2004
CYBER SALES -- Hotel Sales in an Internet World is the New Reality / Carol Verret / February 2004
The New Realities of Hotel Sales - Focus on Revenue Generation / Carol Verret / January 2004
Hotel Sales -- Innovation in the Face of Limitations / Carol Verret / November 2003
The Good News & the Bad News; Improving Economy = New Hotel Development / Carol Verret / October 2003
Leadership - General Managers Managing the Sales Process / Carol Verret  / October 2003
When the Crystal Ball is Cloudy; Marketing Plans for 2004 / Carol Verret / July 2003
Partnership of Sales and Technology; Using Tech Tools to "Sell" the Hotels / Carol Verret  / July 2003
Back to the Basics? The Basics of Hotel Sales Have Changed! / May 2003
Creating Sales "HUNTERS": The Skill Sets Required in the New Hotel Sales Environment / April 2003
Heightened Security Requires New Strategies in Hotels Sales / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Mar 2003
Revenue Recovery - Building The ‘A’ Team in Sales / Carol Verret / January 2003
Contingency Marketing Plan – War In Iraq! / Carol Verret / November 2002
Playing the Rate Game - Positioning -- Positioning -- Positioning! / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Rate Game - Playing to Win / Carol Verret / October 2002
The Challenge of Marketing Independent Boutique Hotels / Carol Verett / August 2002
Hotel Sales in a Limited Service Environment - The Rules Have Changed / Carol Verett / August 2002
The General Manager’s Role in Sales -Chief Marketing Officer of the Hotel / Carol Verret / April 2002
100% Market Share Penetration is Not Good Enough / Carol Verett / January 2002
The Key to REVPAR Recovery –  New Business Development / Carol Verett / December  2001
Trash the 2002 Marketing Plan - And Just Start Over / Carol Verett / September 2001
How to Use Consultants Effectively –  A View From the Other Side  / Carol Verret / August 2001
How Soft Is Your Hotel's Economic Landing?  / Carol Verret / Aprl 2001
The ‘Value Proposition’: Marketing Yourself to Prospective Employees / Carol Verret / January 2001
Generation Y:  Motivating and Training a New Generation of Employees / Carol Verret / November  2000
Why Customer Service Seminars Don't Work / Carol Verret / October 2000
Creating a Culture of Customer Service / Carol Verret Consulting and Training / Sept 2000 
FAT, DUMB AND HAPPY – The Seasonal Boom and  Bust Cycle / Carol Verret / August 2000
Surf's Up - Ride the Wave or Miss the Boat -The Effective Use of Technology in Hotel Sales / Carol Verret / July 2000 
Measuring Effectiveness of  Hotel Sales Departments / Carol Verret / June 2000
Hotel Sales Training - The Need for Immediate Results / Carol Verret/ May 2000



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