Not all hotels are created equal. And, neither are customers.

Today, most meeting planners aren’t privy to hotel availability and pricing. So, they end up fanning their RFP across the country, hoping to find that perfect venue amongst hundreds (if not thousands) of options.

This has been the norm for years. Our team has a collective decades of experience working for the country’s largest convention hotels and resorts. And, in our experience, we know that meeting planners tend to send the same RFP to several hotels located in the same region. This means, if you receive an RFP, expect that all of your neighboring comp set has received it as well.

The most successful hotel sales teams are smart about standing out to win that business.

Here are our tips:

Offer Visual Resources That Planners Want

Meeting planners are usually focused on the logistics of planning their event. They need the right visuals to help them envision their event at your property. What helps the most? Photos of previous events and video tours of your space. Create online photos galleries and categorize by event type, such as reception, conference, business dinner, etc. Shoot virtual 360 tours of your property, meeting space and rooms. This is especially helpful to non-traditional meeting planners who don’t plan events full-time and who may not have the time to travel for in-person site inspections.

Understand Your ‘It’ Factor and Showcase It

Differentiate yourself from the beginning. Go back to your hotel’s SWOT Analysis and list of competing hotels. What can you offer groups better than any other property? What do you have that they don’t? It’s imperative you take the time to thoroughly think this through so you can prove to the planner that you are different.

For example, during our time at Gaylord Opryland Resort, many would assume our ‘It’ factor was our stunning, soaring atriums and remarkable meeting space. However, the truth was that most of our competitors also had fantastic meeting space. Our true difference was that we had a palpable culture and commitment for excellence with our meetings and events. To prove it, most of our site inspections were spent showing the planner the 'back of the house', so meeting planners could see themselves how our team was committed to working with each other to delight the attendees.

Whatever makes you different, lead with that in every proposal and any marketing campaigns aimed for the meetings market. Be sure it's demonstratable. Help the meeting planner pick you out from a crowd.

Find Out What The Customer REALLY Wants

Drill down on what really matters to the meeting planner. What are the vital decision points? Even if they simply answer with a variation of rates/dates/space, it’s up to you to dig even deeper to find out what lies beyond those basic answers. What amenities are important? Do airport transfers matter? How does weather play into their decision?

We build GroupSync to help hotel sales managers understand what is important to the planner. Our Certified Market Lead automatically prompts meeting planners to fill out this vital information ahead of time so you’ll know exactly what’s important to winning the business. We understand from the hotel sales manager's perspective, that better information leads to better responses. This is a major benefit not just to hotel sales teams, but also for the planner.

Get a Genuine Ranking of Priorities

Find out what the planner’s priorities are for awarding the business. Despite what the planner may say, the lowest rate doesn't always win. In fact, our data shows that planners choose the lowest rate just less than 40 percent of the time. You may have to help the planner rank their own hot buttons.

Ask targeted questions that will help hone in on their top concerns. Such as “Based on last year’s attendee surveys, what did attendees value most? What do they want to see more of this year? What are your must-have meeting space capabilities? How important is having a spa/golf/outdoor dining? If rate/dates/space were all even, what would make you choose one property over another?

Get Creative When Filling in the Gaps

It’s vital that you know the customer’s key decision points and their priorities before presenting a proposal. Forewarned is forearmed. If certain amenities are critical to winning the business, whip up creative solutions to address the planner’s needs. Does the customer want a reception venue with gorgeous ocean view? Partner with a beachfront restaurant with stunning outdoor space and offer free transportation. Is having a spa important to attendees? Work with a nearby wellness spa for a special deal for attendees.