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Today’s Meeting Planner: New Generation of
 Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #8
(eighth in a series)


By David M. Brudney, ISHC, October 2007

This new generation of hospitality Sales professionals must deal with a much more sophisticated, knowledgeable and demanding meeting planner.  Never has it been more critical for Sales directors and managers to know their “stuff” and share their knowledge; to master the art of people connecting and to respond quickly and accurately at all times. 

Today’s planners represent a $120-plus billion meeting planning industry - - that’s larger than the medical manufacturing and pharmaceutical industry.  There are now more than a million off-site meetings a year in the U.S.; less than 10 percent are for groups using 500 rooms or more; 70 percent of those meetings are for groups of 30-35 people or less.  

These new planners are multi-taskers, many of whom have been forced into the meeting planning business due to corporate mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and outsourcing.  Some former procurement managers now find themselves booking meetings.

Hospitality Sales pros should keep in mind that procurement specialists are schooled in booking volume business travel contract rooms, where price is always king.  These procurement specialists are making decisions now in a new - - for them - - paradigm: booking meetings based on value and not necessarily by price.

Time: the planners new currency 

Time is now the meeting planners most critical and most protected possession.  Their new currency is no longer dollars and cents, it’s now hours and minutes.  

Hence, there is no longer time in the interaction between meeting planner and hospitality Sales pros.  No “forgiving” of phones not answered or calls not returned.  No patience with rookies that have not done their homework; that have no knowledge to share and do not listen.  Meeting planners need to be shown that they are valued - - who they are and what they do - - by Sales directors and managers.  And that needs to be done right away. 

A Meeting News survey indicates that 6-out-of-10 meeting planners’ venue decisions are based solely on information, photos and specs found on the Internet. 

Meeting planners new resource: a social media network 

These planners have some exciting new resources.  Web 2.0 - - and what Cindy Estes Green calls the “social media Tsunami” - - enables planners to find valuable information, trusted testimonials and recommendations.  Blogs, Wikis and Folksonomies have created new “knowledge sharing” opportunities for meeting planners never available before on such a wide, global scale.

One such social media is meeting planner guru Joan Eisenstodt’s MiForum with more than 8,000 participants.  I was invited to participate on MiForum earlier this year and was blown away by the content, the knowledge sharing, the level of dialogue between participating planners, hospitality Sales pros and convention/conference service managers. Discussions ranged from tips for negotiating total meeting costs to which venue would work best, to finding the right speaker.

Blogs such as Eisenstodt’s help demonstrate that planners rely much more today on social media knowledge sharing amongst peers before making decisions and less and less on hospitality industry websites, PDF files and advertising/P.R. - - much the same as today’s consumers rely on new user generated content sites such as Trip Advisor (24 million travelers access; 10 million consumer generated reviews monthly) and Facebook (37 million users most popular for its “Where I’ve Been” feature).  

Meeting planners using new “meeting success” measurement sticks 

Sophisticated planners are using new measurement sticks today.  No longer are successful meetings measured merely by attendance, evaluation surveys and general feedback.  Today there’s a whole new performance metric of “R’s”:  R.O.O.: return on objective, R.O.C.: return on content, R.O.E.: return on experience, according to exhibit and event management services consultant Candy Adams, the “Booth Mom”. 

It would behoove all Sales directors and managers today to think in terms of how their respective hotel, resort or conference center might enhance a prospective meeting’s objective, content and experience.  

Tips for interacting with Planners 

Referencing meeting planner interviews I have conducted along with recent surveys produced by Meeting News and PKF/Convention South, here are a few tips for when Sales directors and managers interact with meeting planners:

Planners will continue to work exclusively with third parties, e.g., HelmsBriscoe and Conference Direct, rather than deal with inexperienced, slow to respond hospitality Sales directors and managers - - all the more reason to establish your credibility quickly.

Answer your own phone (quickly).

Return phone calls & e-mails (quickly) - - if not within the hour, forget it.  You’ve probably lost the business already!

Demonstrate a sincere appreciation of planners’ value and time restraints.

Listen carefully - - avoid planner having to repeat information.

Focus on planners’ needs along with planners’ wants.

Remember, planners seek out decision makers - - if you aren’t one or if you can’t be, assure the planner that you have access to one and can get back to them quickly.

Sure, there will be “amateurs” and “first time” meeting planners with whom to interact.  They will need more patience, guidance and good bedside manners.  Knowledge sharing will be even more valued by these inexperienced planners.

But the meetings most likely not to cancel, most likely not to be underfunded - - most likely to book the most room nights at the highest possible rates - - are now being done by this new breed of sophisticated, knowledgeable and demanding meeting planners.

Those hospitality Sales pros that recognize and accept this fact - - and gear up for it - - will be the ones that come away with the most quality business booked.  If done correctly, these planners should become loyal and book time and time again.  And they will tell other meeting planners about you and your property, and they will do that through Blogs, on the phone and in person.

© Copyright 2007 


David M. Brudney, ISHC, is a veteran sales and marketing professional with four decades of service to the hospitality industry.  Brudney advises lodging owners, lenders, asset managers and operators on sales and marketing “best practices” and conducts reviews of sales and marketing operations throughout the U.S. and overseas.  The principal of David Brudney & Associates of Carlsbad, CA, a sales and marketing consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry since 1979, Brudney is a frequent speaker, instructor and mentor.  He is a charter member of International Society of Hospitality Consultants.  Previously, Brudney held sales and marketing positions with Hyatt, Westin and Marriott.
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Contact:

David M. Brudney, ISHC, Principal 
David Brudney & Associates 
Carlsbad, CA 
760-476-0830 Fax 760-476-0860 
(c) 760-994-9266
David@DavidBrudney.com
www.DavidBrudney.com
www.ishc.com


 
Also See Hospitality Leaders Take Note: The Bill Walsh Legacy / David Brudney / August 2007
Hotel Brands Weren’t Always Thinking Outside the Box / David Brudney / July 2007
Did the Cruise Experience but Thanks,  I’ll Take My Luxury Resort Any Day / David Brudney / June 2007
Referrals; New Generation of Hotel Sales Professionals: Lesson #7 / David Brudney / May 2007
Relationship Building - New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #6 / David Brudney / April 2007
Site Inspections New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #5 / David Brudney / March 2007
Mood of Hotel Investors and Operators is Euphoric / David Brudney / February 2007
“Keep Your Friends Close and Your Enemies Closer” Know Your Hotel Competition: Lesson #4 / David Brudney / January 2007
Hotel Owners Nightmare: Money Left on the Table / David Brudney / December 2006
New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #3: Selling Time Balance / David Brudney / November 2006
New Generation of Hospitality Sales Professionals Lesson #2: Want to be Successful? Start by Packing your own 'Chute / David Brudney ISHC / October 2006
Managing the Consultant: Careful Not to Doom the Project / David M. Brudney / September 2006
You Cannot Microwave Experience: New Generation of Hotel Sales Professionals - Lesson 1 / David Brudney / August 2006
New Breed of Hotel Sales Associates Lacking Curiosity? Maybe it’s Not a Generational Thing / David Brudney ISHC / July 2006
Generation X Hotel Sales Associates: All Important Curiosity Factor Missing? / David Brudney / June 2006
Physical Therapy Sessions: A Good Reminder for Professional Selling Fundamentals / David M. Brudney / April 2006
Hotel Marketing Starts Locally; Never Forget Your Neighbors / David M. Brudney / March 2006
Notes from the ALIS Conference / David Brudney / February 2006
General Managers Workshop: Managing Today's Hotel Sales Teams / July 2005
Owners & Asset Managers: Need Expert Advice, Referral? Ask A Trusted Consultant / David M. Brudney, ISHC / May 2005
Larry May: The Passing Of Another Hotel Soldier / David Brudney ISHC / April 2005
Hotel Owners: Better, Worse or About the Same? / David Brudney ISHC / December 2004
Let’s Put Bush and Kerry Through the RFP Process / October 2004
Bev Kordsmeier, Hyatt Sales’ First Lady / April 2004
Message to Hotel Sales Associates: “It’s Not You!”/ January 2004
What Innkeepers Want Every Christmas? Fill Those Empty Rooms / December 2003
Uncertain Times Call for Return to Backyard Basics / April 2003
Time to “Group Up”?  Maybe, Maybe Not / May 2002
America’s Front Desk  Fights Back! / January 2002
Front Desk Fails To Catch America’s Hospitality Spirit / David Brudney ISHC / November 2001
A Very Good Time For That Sales Audit / David Brudney ISHC / Sept 2001 
More Theater, Less Zombies / David Brudney ISHC / Dec 2000 
It’s The Experience, Stupid! / David Brudney ISHC / Nov 2000 



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