The most successful hotel sales managers and directors don’t wait until the end to make the close. They’re working the close from Day One.

Modern meeting planners are savvy buyers and aren’t easily swayed by standard tactics. So, don’t stop viewing the close as a ‘make it or break it’ moment. Provide value, grounded advice, the right tools and reinforce your hotel’s unique assets, amenities and service culture throughout the ENTIRE sales process.

We turned to our own team of meeting advisors, who are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in group bookings, for their smartest ‘closing’ tips for hotel sales teams.

Showcase What Makes Your Property Different

This idea sounds cliché, but is actually widely underrated. Consider this: Meeting planners are exposed to hundreds of properties every year. And, even when they narrow in on a destination, it will require even more of an effort to differentiate between properties in the same city vying for their business. Afterall, your hotel, and those in your comp set, may all start to look and sound the same. That’s why it’s vital to stand out on every front – unique selling points, photos, copy, group offerings, etc. Know your “It factor” and incorporate that in all of your marketing and sales.

Demonstrate Your Remarkable Staff Culture

Meeting planners want a partner in planning and a team that will execute their vision. That’s why your hotel’s service culture, and how well you demonstrate it, is vital to winning the business.

It’s one thing to proudly tout your staff and your high level of guest service. It’s another thing to prove it.

During our tenure at Gaylord Hotels, many assumed our ‘It factor’ was soaring atriums and remarkable meeting space. But, the truth was that many of our competitors also offered grand venue options. So, we dug deeper and found that our true differentiator was our acclaimed service culture and commitment to flawless execution. To demonstrate that, we spent less time pointing out our high ceilings, and more time in the “back of the house” where the planner could see our team members working together to make our clients shine.

Never Lose Sight of Your Comp Set

With all the tactics and monitoring tools at your disposal, you should never be surprised when a nearby hotel outperforms you. Savvy hotel sales teams proactively seek key insights into their competition to see what offers they’re running and how well they are succeeding. How are they positioning their meeting space and offers? What is their sales message? How are they servicing meeting planners in ways that you don’t? What about the product itself – are there meeting experiences that outshine yours? Then, finally the most important question to ask: What can your hotel sales team do to outperform and outshine the rest? When you understand your competitors, you can better anticipate their performance, as well as yours. All this will help you achieve your room night goals and more group revenue.

Advise, Don’t Pressure

Meeting planners are savvy business people who don’t respond to the standard pressure tactics. They want a partner and an advisor who understands their goals and is going to help reach them. Become a trusted meeting advisor and their personal destination expert. If they need an intimate off-site dinner venue or teambuilding suggestions, send tailored recommendations keeping their attendees and unique objectives in mind, instead of simply sending a link to your DMO. Always offer value, insight and thoughtful suggestions.

Think Like A Planner

Understand what planners want and need to ease any complications in the sourcing process. Then, show the planner you understand what success means to them and that you and your team are prepared to deliver it. Respond quickly (within hours, not days) to their RFPs and questions. Offer the right tools and assets to help them visualize their event at your venue, including images of previous events, 360-degree virtual/live video tours (vital for meeting planners unable to conduct site visits), and customized floor plans that show their configurations. Organize site inspections around their needs, not yours. Every interaction should be working towards their meeting objectives, not your own room night goals.