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Caesars Windsor's Jeremy Tyrrell Visits Greenfield

Jeremy Tyrrell visits Greenfield Services Inc.
left to right: Meagan Rockett, Director of Client Solutions; Tanya Rolfe, Business Development Specialist; Jeremy Tyrrell, Caesars Windsor; Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist, Greenfield Services

On Friday morning, December 9, the Greenfield Team had a wonderful surprise visit from long-time friend and client, Jeremy Tyrrell of Caesars Windsor. Jeremy was in the area to visit association clients and to attend the MPI Festive Flicks luncheon at the Delta City Centre Hotel in Ottawa.

He took time out of his busy schedule to drop by the Greenfield offices, bringing us a yummy box of chocolates, nuts and popcorn!
Jeremy finally got to meet Tanya Rolfe, the Business Development Specialist who had been developing leads and setting up new client appointments for him and another Caesars over the last few years!

Thank you, Jeremy, it was great to see you! We hope you have a great Christmas!

Listen while Prospecting for New Business

FrustrationLast week I got my first prospecting call from an organization looking to see if we hold meetings or events outside of my immediate area.  While I am sure the owners of our company get these on a regular basis, I was surprised to hear how the call went.

The introduction was perfect. I was even asked if I was caught at an appropriate time.

But the rest of the conversation went something like this:

Prospector: I was wondering if your company held any offsite meetings outside of the Alexandria area?

My reply: Not regularly.  Let me explain – we are a market research and business development firm for the hospitality industry.  Our clients are like you – and come to us when it comes time to fill their funnel with new leads to continue to nurture.  We are their lead generation firm.

Prospector: (Pause) Would it be OK to send you some information by email?
Really?  Did you not hear what I just said?

There are several things I can address in this lead generation scenario, but my top two are:
  1. Did the prospector even look at our website?  While a call may have still been warranted (as they are told to call everyone on the list, I’m sure), the prospector did not seem to have any idea of what our company did.  Research is key.
  2. I raised an objection, and it was not heard.  I clearly told the prospector that we are lead generators ourselves, and that we do what she is doing every workday.  She acted like she did not even hear me, which makes me believe that she was literally working off a piece of paper.
I said that I was willing to receive information by email should they wish to send it through. While I did not get the information I agreed to, I think it may be time to approach this organization regarding a customized lead generation program.  We are in a position to help this organization grow their lists of conference attendees, and generate qualified leads for them.

The simple solution to cold calling

This article was written by Nicholas Button, one of Greenfield's Business Development Specialists.
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In the hospitality industry cold calling is a necessary part of the sales process. Some people have some trouble in this area. They try to come up different techniques. They obsess about when to call, where to call, who to talk to.

As a Business Development Speciality for Greenfield Services, prospecting is what I do for a living. My philosophy about doing business development over the phone is summarized by Occams Razor which states that the simplest answer is most likely correct. Let me explain.

The simplest and probably most important thing that you have to remember when phoning prospects is that they are just people. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking to the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, or the Administrative Assistant for a company with three employees. They are essentially the same. They expect to be treated with respect, and to be spoken to as if they are the most important person you will speak with (and they are correct). If you can envision that the person you’re talking to is the lead to end all leads, it will come through in every nuance of your voice. Then half the trouble with cold calling is already behind you.

The other half of the trouble, the simple yet deceptively difficult part. You have to sell yourself to the contact. In an initial cold call, you are not really selling a product or a venue. You are selling yourself as that product or venue’s representative. In my experience it doesn’t matter so much what you are trying to sell if the person is already sold on you.

How you can accomplish this is not something you can be trained about, or told how to do it simply because it will vary for every person and sometimes every situation. You will know when you have found it however; as soon as you feel more confident, you will see a marked increase in your results.

So just remember: simplicity is key. Talk to your clients like you would want to be treated if the situations were reversed. You know what works for you when sales people call, use that to sell yourself to your clients. Occam’s Razor says the simplest answer is usually correct; we have all been told to treat people like we expect to be treated, I doubt there is a simpler way to call on a new prospect.

Database Cleansing – We Practice What We Preach

Clean Button
This fall, we decided it was time to practice what we preach, and update our B2B Database by conducting our own data cleansing campaign.

While our main objective was to ensure that our database was as clean as possible (to continue to market to Hospitality & Meetings Industry professionals, as well as Association executives), we recognized that this was a prime opportunity to track metrics and see how our database measured up compared to other data cleansing campaigns.

We selected records we had not connected with in 2011.  These included contacts from independent hotels, chain hotels, Convention & Visitor Bureau’s), the Meetings Industry (Audio-Visual Suppliers, 3rd Party Planners), and Professional & Trade Associations.

A total of 603 calls were placed to update 420 records, averaging at 1.44 calls placed to complete 1 record (strictly data cleansing).  The results were as follows:
  • 276 of the contacts were still with the organization, and updated their information (65% of the total completions). 
  • There were 55 new contacts who had replaced people who we had on file (13% of the total completions).
  • 71 contacts were terminated for various reasons (mainly, the contact was no longer there, but we also found a few who were no longer interested in continuing a business relationship) – representing 17% of the total completions.
  • We were unable to connect with the remaining 18 records (5% of the total completions).  We are keeping these records on file, and will attempt to update the information at a later date.
What did we learn?
The database, once completed, shows that 95% of the contacts we had on file were updated over various results, and we can now proceed with actionable marketing efforts in from our CRM to the right people.

This ratio is much higher than what we typically see statistically (our typical aver is between 60-70% for client projects), however, we clean our database at least once per year, which is why the ratio is higher.

Our goal was to clean up as much as we could in order to create an appropriate marketing approach to re-engage these prospects.

Making an annual data cleansing exercise part of a marketing plan is an excellent way to ensure you keep costs down, and your marketing activities as effective as possible!

IMEX America 2011 was a Resounding Success…

…and Greenfield Services was proud to be a part of it!

In February 2011, Greenfield Services was approached by organizers of IMEX America to support their attendance marketing campaign.  We drew from our extensive database to identify 13,500 meeting and event planners that fit IMEX rigorous hosted buyer criteria.  The Greenfield list used was distinctly separate from the existing list maintained by IMEX.
imex logo
This collaborative effort produced a compaign comprised of seven informative emails, as well as one postal mailing.  Greenfield Business Development Specialists took the marketing effort one-step further by placing phone calls to a select group of contacts after each email, to further support the key messages and encourage qualified planners to register for this groundbreaking event.

According to a press release from IMEX America:
The inaugural event was considered “A breath of fresh air”.

Feedback from over 2,000 hosted buyers, 1,700 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors who attended demonstrates that it lived up to its promise to reinvigorate business with a successful collaborative model.  The tradeshow received a widespread positive reaction, with a high-volume of pre-scheduled appointments (30,000 total appointments made), with many additional “walk-up” business meetings as well.  Nearly 53% of the hosted buyers had a budget that exceeded $1 million!

To read more from the press release, click here.

Says Doreen Ashton Wagner, Chief Strategist at Greenfield Services, “We were thrilled to be approached by IMEX to be a part of this groundbreaking event with our Attendance Promotion & Email Marketing services.  IMEX America generated a lot of positive feedback (both before and after the tradeshow) – and it was great to be involved with it in its first year.  We look forward to strategically partnering with them again!”

Occupy Wall Street: What Will It Mean for the Hospitality Industry?

Occupy the World ProtestI’m not a political scientist or sociology expert, but my gut tells me this Occupy Wall Street is big.  Beyond Wall Street, it’s now Occupy the World.

As the owner of a small business currently with 17 employees, I agree with some of the premises of this movement.  They basically boil down to: when anything gets too big (as it business, as in government), people are prone to excess.

Too many get greedy and forget about their fellow human being.

But I do not believe that capitalism itself is evil.  The alternative is just as nasty; socialism and egalitarianism are just as prone to abuse – why else did people bring down the Berlin Wall?

It’s the extremes that cause us trouble.  “Everything in moderation,” my grandma used to say…

We could go on and on about political ideology.  At the risk of being accused of the very sin that big bad business people commit all the time, I ask, “What will this mean to the hospitality business and the meetings industry in particular?”  Only time will tell, but here are a few (random) thoughts:

- This movement is facilitated by social media, but the online world is no match for getting people out into the streets so that issues get attention.  Face-to-face is where it’s at.  Will we be able to get the world to understand the importance of the meetings industry?

- We may be in for another round of the AIG effect.  But let’s get beyond the “what will people think” mentality this time, and really get down to objectives and how having meeting will change the way people do things.

- Face-to-face doesn’t have to happen in a fancy hotel.  This should be a loud alarm bell for hotel developers to start thinking beyond the real estate deal and look at the long-term sustainability of their expansion projects;

- This kind of change will threaten some brands and be a boon to others.  Especially those that are willing to change the rules of the game.  Those like the Alt Hotel where they only charge ONE rate, for ALL their rooms, 365 days per year.  No upgrades, no discounts.  Pretty egalitarian stuff – check out our blog about this hotel industry-alterring concept.

So, hospitality and event professionals, what do YOU think this #OWS movement will mean to you and your organization?

Is It Time To Have Another Look At Sales Appointments?

SaveTheDate2012 is fast approaching and in the last few months you have had to plan out your Sales & Marketing activities for the year.  Are Sales Appointments on your action plan?

We have organized many “sales blitzes” for hotel and CVB clients.  Over the last two years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of prospects and the number of call attempts it takes to secure one appointment.  In 2008, it typically took 15 qualified records to book one appointment.  In 2011, we saw this number increase to as high as 30 records prospected per appointment.

This trend is consistent with the “crazy-busy” behaviors that Jill Konrath describes in her book, SNAP Selling; Speed Up Sales and Win More Business from Today’s Frazzled Customers.  Prospects shy away from the face-to-face meeting with suppliers that they were not familiar with because they have too many conflicting priorities.

Even established clients are too busy to see their reps unless they have a compelling problem to solve immediately!  Long gone are the days when a sales rep could pick up the phone just a week or two prior to their sales calls.

The irony is that once you do see a prospect in person, it means they are more likely to want to do business with you.  Here are a few ideas to get to these prospects that may not be comfortable (yet) with a personal sales call:
  • Consider a Breakfast & Education Session (or, a Lunch & Learn).  Pick a hot topic, secure a guest speaker, and start promoting the event.  Initiate the nurturing process by sending strategic marketing emails regarding the event to contacts you would like to see have their meetings or events at your facility/destination.  Getting several planners in one room for this education session (and, as the sponsor, taking a few minutes to chat about what you can offer) is less threatening in a planner’s eye than having the supplier (or a delegation of salespeople!) come  to their office.
  • In our October 2011 issue of Greenfield Insights (our monthly newsletter), we spoke about one smaller destination that we helped secure registrations for a Breakfast & Education Session, and we were the guest speaker too!  There were 15 planners in the room who provided positive feedback, and one in particular had no idea that the city had enough meeting space for their conference – the destination sales reps were thrilled with this approach!
  • If you are not sure who to invite, or how to grow your list of potential attendees, invite some of your key clients and ask them to bring a planner friend from another company.  Not only will they bring attendees with them, they will be big supporters in promoting your hotel/destination to others who have yet to bring you business.  Reward them for bringing that colleague just as you would reward them for a referral.
Sales calls still play a vital role in your business development arsenal.  But salespeople need to be much more diligent about creating trust and uncovering opportunities to meet face-to-face.
How will you be meeting new contacts in 2012?

Alt Hotel: A Game Changing Concept for the Hospitality Industry?

change buttonAt a recent MPI Toronto event I ran into Jodi Spivak, a fellow event professional I’d met on Twitter last year.  Jodi now works with Hotel Le Germain Maple Leaf Square and she was eagerly telling us about the new hotel project she is also involved with at Pearson Airport.

From what I can tell, Alt Hotel is a game changing concept in the North American hospitality industry: they charge only ONE rate.  You read correctly – one rate, for every single room, every night of the year.  No volume discounts, no group discounts.

Jodi was telling me this in front of a Starwood Hotels director of sales, whose jaw dropped.  Imagine not having to play the negotiation game?  It’s ONE rate.  And not having to run to a revenue manager to haggle for a discount for a client who has more business down the road?  How refreshing!

Apparently there the Alt Hotel breaks a few more rules.  Employees can wear jeans on the job.  And they run a $1 per night contest where a guest who has reserved online wins one night of their stay for a buck!  I have not witnessed this new concept myself, but I sure will the next time my travels take me to the Montreal south shore.

The Germain Group first came up with the idea with their property in Brossard, QC.  They opened a second hotel in Québec City, and the Toronto property is slated to open in April 2012.

How soon before the copycats follow?  Judging from the face of that Starwood DOS, I say this is certain to be a game changer.

Nurturing your Hotel Group Leads

Nurture Hotel Group LeadsYou have invested time and effort in a Hotel Group Lead Generation Program. You have generated a number of leads and prospects interested in maintaining contact.

Now the fun really starts – how do you keep your lead generation investment from losing value? Statistics show that successful sales organizations attempt to reach a contact 6-8 times before they are ready to buy your product or service.

To be successful in keeping your brand top of mind, Hotel Sales & Marketing Managers should have a concrete action plan in place to nurture leads. Here are some best practices we've observed in the field:
  1. Email communication. Drip campaigns are great to help you with your lead nurturing program. This can be with newsletters with timely tips on meeting planning (i.e. green meetings, team building activities, bridging generational gaps at your meetings, etc). With Email marketing – large chain hotels may be at a disadvantage when it comes to creating custom content. Likely, the content would need to be approved by Corporate and have to follow their pre-determined Standard Operating Procedures – which can be very time consuming. However, if you set up a group of contacts in your email software and when an interesting press release is posted on your corporate website, share it with them with a personal note attached; it will draw their attention back to your website.
  2. Send them a personal handwritten note. With email, how many people get anything but bills in the mail anymore? As you build the relationship, send them a card on a special day in the year. While the holiday season is a fevered time to do this, pick something out of the ordinary to draw their attention. Last year one hotel chain, whose ownership is mainly based in Asia, sent out cards on Chinese New Year instead of Christmas – the Christmas card rush was over, and it drew the attention of planners.
  3. Send a Fax. Who uses a fax machine anymore? Occasionally some clients still use the fax for signed contracts, but more often it is used by travel discounters to advertise low price cruises! But don't be too quick to dismiss this means of communication. Recently our team at Greenfield tested this out. We sent a fax to prospect clients. The message was simple: we know that it is budget time and that they are “crazy busy”, but have they thought about prospecting efforts for their next fiscal year? The call to action was to email/call us for further assistance, and within 24 hours we received three responses. One contact in particular said that it drew her attention as they never receive personal faxes anymore!
  4. Send them the information they need. Chances are, during the lead generation process, a lot of information has been gathered. Focus on the meeting specifications that were provided and put a package together that suits your targeted meeting planners’ needs.
  5. Social Media. Do you have a blog, or does your corporate site have one? Are you on LinkedIn or Twitter? Connect with the planner as many ways as you can. When something is posted about your property, ensure that it is forwarded to your connections.
The trick to effective lead nurturing is to ensure that you are not inundating prospects with too much information too frequently. Plan “touches” 4-6 weeks apart, so that they consider it a friendly reminder that you are there for them, versus over-advertising yourself/your brand.

Competitive Research & List Building – Can You Afford NOT to Do It?

Business Money2Do you know what groups are having their meetings at destinations or hotels within your competitive set?  This knowledge can assist your DMO or property to draw business your way.   The list of who has been to such-and-such (competitive) hotel could be a very worthwhile one to be prospecting!

Greenfield has executed many projects that combine both online market research and lead generation efforts and we’ve found that, on average, up to 10% more leads can be generated this way.

The first lead generation project was completed for an independent resort property.  We conducted this in two phases – first, we conducted online research on their competitors to see what groups were advertising a meeting/event at these competitive hotels. We located the contact information on the organization’s website, along with the name of the event planner (if readily available).  We then contacted each organization to determine if the hotel we were representing would make sense as an upcoming meeting destination. Results were very positive:
  • We were making a “warm call”.  Because they had met at a competitor’s we knew they were qualified for our hotel client.  They were likely to be resort users, and be able to afford our client’s rates.  Clients were much more responsive when we referenced past events.  We were also able to ask more probing questions: “I was just on your website, and saw that your 2010 conference was held at XYZ hotel, did you find that it was successful?  What made you decide to hold it there?  Have you ever considered our property as a meeting destination?”
  • Proof is in the results:  An investment of $6,500 for this particular project, we generated over 80 new business leads, representing over 28% of the records we gathered and prospected.  These leads represented over 21,000 total potential room nights for total potential revenue of $3,000,000.  Now that’s lots of business for their sales team to pursue!
Another recent competitive research project was city hotel looking to see what their competitors are quoting for Corporate Rates.  The hotel director of sales identified 75 companies for us to represent as mystery shoppers in calls to five of their closest competitors.  We picked specific dates and asked what their availability was, along with the rates and inclusions for each account.   The resulting report enabled our hotel client to make educated decisions about what corporate rates should be proposed for 2012.  They were also able to assess what inclusions should be offered, ensuring they were positioned with the greatest competitive advantage possible.

The type and depth your CVB or hotel requires may vary, but in the end devoting time to online and competitive research will help you gain market share and grow your business!

Outsource your Hotel Group Lead Generation or Keep it In-House?

Lead Generation Team
Obviously, we would like you to outsource your Lead Generation efforts. It’s our business. But I have been reading up on this particular topic, and feel I should explain why it makes sense:
  • There is a dedicated team working for you. While you may hire a coordinator or assistant to help you in the Sales Department to conduct Lead Generation, often their goals will shift. They will need to assist with contracts, follow-up with existing contacts, preparation for tradeshows/upcoming events, and servicing those contacts who are bringing a group to your city/property already. Realistically, how often are they able to spend daily on the phone generating new business for you? Probably not as much as you hope. Outsourcing provides an option where the team is doing nothing but lead generation on your behalf.
  • Depending on the level of commitment, outsourcing can help you nurture the relationship until it is Sales-Ready. One of our largest clients uses our services to conduct lead generation on their behalf all year long. It takes a team of 3-4 employees on average per month who generate new leads, and nurture the relationship until it is time for the hotel to submit a proposal. The turn-around for this based on their definition is that the prospect wants to hear from a Sales Manager at the hotel within a 24-hour window of time from our last contact point. Between the initial contact and that point, we are sending newsletters, following up with calls to ensure that they have from us what they need, etc. We have been given personal email addresses with our clients’ network and use this to continue our communication.
  • Outsourcing can help provide better results. Yes, your in-house person is on-site, but as mentioned above, will easily get distracted with other tasks needed to be taken care of on a daily basis. A blog posted by The Fearless Competitor, Jeff Ogden in February 2011 states that outsourcing can provide over 40% better results than in-house lead generation. Some of the top rated reasons for this are “Clear Client Profiling, Follow-up and Feedback, Multi-Channeled Approach and Less Cost.”
Just ensure when conducting your research that you try and select a company that is an expert in your market. Do they know your business? How much initial training will be needed to get them up and running? Ask for references if you can. It will help you make the right decision when it comes to growing your business.

Hospitality Prospecting - Cold Calling Made Warm.....

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One of the earliest lead generation projects that I worked on was one that made me feel I was truly successful. In this project the client allowed for extra time in the budget for us to gather group history for each association. This entailed going on their website and looking at where the group had been in the past.

It was unbelievable the difference it made in each conversation. There was an honest connection made with every meeting planner I spoke to, like I hadn’t experienced on projects prior to that one. Mind you I was still quite “green” at the time and had very little experience in Lead Generation.

So it was quite literally the perfect way for me to learn exactly how I wanted to handle each prospecting call going forward. It also helped me feel at ease with the people I was speaking with, I didn’t feel like I was going into the call “blind”.

All of a sudden I was more comfortable on each call. I had planners telling me how it was such a refreshing change to have someone show that kind of initiative. How they appreciated that I had taken the time to research what the organization was about and the details of their meetings & events. It made them feel like I thought they were important enough to take the extra time.

I remember speaking with this one lady in particular; who was so impressed that I had gone the extra distance. She told me that normally she planned her events 2 years out but wanted a call back even sooner because I made her feel important.

Such a simple thing like taking a few minutes to look at the companies’ website, follow the links to their events page, gather the details of their conferences or AGM and just being a little bit more prepared for each call.
You know what they say…

"Do unto others"…People want to know they matter and they want you to…
  • Be polite 
  • Engage
  • Recognize/ Retrieve (background information)       
  • Empathize                                              
  • Acknowledge/Ascertain (that information is correct/don’t assume) 
  • Listen

Is Database Cleansing on your Spring Cleaning To-Do List?

Data Cleansing
We all know working with clean data is the best option, but how often does it slip our minds to do, and only becomes important when it is too late?

All year long, Sales Managers are visiting tradeshows, participating in conventions, and prospecting, and this data is ultimately going to end up in your CRM.

 Based on what I have seen, this data gets uploaded right away and many Sales Departments have no idea if they can even consider your city/hotel.

And then, in a few months, they will use this data when conducting email campaigns, mailings, and other marketing activities and hope for the best.

I believe that Data Cleansing has two levels – the first is to ensure that the contact is still there and that their contact information is correct. With constant turnover, knowing who you need to speak with is important, as contacts in the roles you are looking for are ever-changing.

However, the second level is more important than the first. It would include ensuring that the contact is still there and the information you have on them is correct, but ask one very simple question – can you consider our city/hotel?

Do this before you upload this list into your CRM. That way, what does get uploaded in the end is the right stuff for you. Think of how much time and money you will save in your Marketing budget if you do not have to deal with return mail as often.

When should you do this? The answer is simple – as often as you can! We have written some tips in the past, which I think maintain their relevance.

Whether you assign this task to a coordinator, or you outsource to a solution provider, it is one of the biggest ways to stay on top of your Sales in the marketplace.

The Economic Impact of the Meetings Industry in Canada vs. the USA

C  Users doreen.GREENFIELD Desktop Website Theme Photos meetings mean business logo resized 600
In 2008 the Canadian meetings industry generated more than 673,400 meetings involving 69,749,000 participants and resulting in just over $71 Billion in industry output, directly accounting for 222,900 full-time jobs (source: Meeting Professionals International Foundation Canada, 2008).

Recently a coalition of 14 U.S. tourism and meetings industry associations (including MPI, PCMA, ASAE, DMAI) released its own study of the economic impact of its meetings.  Working with 2009 data, research firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers USA (PwC) found the U.S. meeting industry had 1.8 million meetings, with 205 million attendees, producing $907 billion in output (direct, indirect and induced), and supporting 1.7 million jobs.

Comparing data between Canada & the US is dangerous because we are looking at difference years (Canada 2008 and U.S. 2009).  Still Canada's $71 Billion total industry output vs. $907 Billion in the U.S. means that the Canadian meetings industry represents 7.8% of the U.S.  This, while the Canadian population represents 11% of the USA.

I for one was a bit surprised at these results.  We're having fewer meetings in Canada when compared to the U.S.?  Or maybe we get to attend more meeting in the U.S. and not here!

So we’re starting to understand what we represent in economic terms, which is important possibly for lobbying purposes when it comes to taxes and infrastructure.  But what does it mean for individual hotels, CVBs, or planners themselves?  Well until we have historical trends, it may be a bit early to tell.

But where are we in terms of understanding what meetings represent in human terms?  Or as the program for National Meetings Industry Day organized by the Montréal-Québec MPI Chapter asked recently, what does the meetings industry represent to the socioeconomic landscape?

Proving the true value of face-to-face meetings is the next challenge for the meetings industry.  We need to better understand why and when a meeting should be face-to-face (F2F) vs. virtual or nothing at all.  We need scientific evidence.  Are we up to the challenge?

Managing Expectations for Hospitality Lead Generation Campaigns

Sales Funnel
My job entails working with our clients to set up their project.  In doing so I often find myself clarifying expectations and discussing the anticipated results of the lead generation effort.

Yes, the main part of our role is to conduct solid days of prospecting.  We find new business opportunities for our clients, and our team commits to conducting 8-hour days of prospecting on their behalf.

However, to manage expectations, we have to set them up at the outset.  Our clients need to know what to expect from us in connect rates, lead averages, and overall interest levels.  So, here are a few things I provide clients so they understand what to expect.

Unless you plan on calling each person on your list until you do have a conversation (good or bad), no list is ever 100% reachable.  In hospitality lead generation campaigns, we typically see an average of 65-70% connect rate, resulting in either a positive outcome (potential business) or a negative result (no interest).  This percentage is based on 3 to 5 call attempts, though it will vary widely depending on the management level targeted (the higher up the corporate ladder, the harder executives are to reach), and the quality or age of the data. 

It would be great to get a lead out of every contact; but from a goals perspective, it is not feasible.  When I say lead, I am referring to a prospect who can consider your hotel or resort, and has provided specifics on an event.  AND they are interested and would like to continue to hear from you.  With this type of project, we see  average lead rates between 2-5%, which varies depending on the type of hotel and destination, as well as the types of clients we are calling upon.  It can be higher; but this is the typical range we have experienced.
Some contacts may not be able to provide meeting or event specifications at the time of the call, but are interested in your facilities or destination.  We deem these "interested prospects" and always recommend that these be placed on a regular nurturing list to receive an e-newsletter, promotional mailings, etc.

This follows our Funnel Activator philosophy which says that most new business relationships must be built over time, increasing trust with each interaction.  Typically, if the list we are working with is relatively good, we expect to produce an additional 5-10% of contacts who are interested in continuing building a relationship with the supplier.

So, if you were working with a list of 1,000 records, you could expect to finish with 650-700 definitive outcomes, 20-50 leads, and 50-100 additional contacts interested in receiving information about your company.

How does this line up with what you are doing?

Generating Leads: Is it Really Luck, or is it Skill?

lucky shamrocks
The month of March contains one of my favourite celebrations – St. Patrick’s Day!  And what are the Irish famous for?  Luck of course!  When it comes to what we are doing for a living here at GREENfield, we believe it’s not so much luck as it is skill and preparation.

Sure - - it is highly probable that some of your prospecting calls generate leads because “you were at the right place at the right time”.  However, there are many other factors involved.  I thought I would share what I consider some necessary steps in generating a G.R.E.A.T. Lead.

Get ready – do your research.  In the meetings industry, it can go a long way to solidifying the relationship going forward when you have put in the time in advance (i.e. I was on your website and saw that your last annual meeting was in Vancouver – how did that event go?)

React.  Be in the moment – listen to what the contact is saying and be ready to respond.  Tune in to their personalities so that the conversation is as productive as possible (i.e. If they are the type of person who provides – although informative – short and sweet answers, don’t drone on for 20 minutes before you actually include them in the conversation).

Earn respect (and give it).  You may not be talking to the decision-maker on the first call.  The influencer or “gatekeeper” to the decision-maker is just as important to have conversations with in the beginning, as well as throughout the process.  Asking for their input and assistance may be the difference to getting the introduction to the decision-maker in the first place.

Address Objections.  One of our Sales Trainers, Colleen Francis, has taught us the following model: Stop – Acknowledge – Ask.  You may uncover that the reason for the objection is not as big as they think, and you may get the business anyway.  Stop and hear the objection – Acknowledge that you heard what they are saying – Ask questions to clarify.  It gets them talking.  It doesn’t work every time, but it shows you respect their position.

Take the time – secure commitment, send the information, thank them for their valuable time and trace the follow-up.  Make sure that you trace it for when they want to hear from you.
Other than that – remember that confidence is probably the most important thing of all.  Believe that you have the right to ask for the information, because if you waver, it gives them an 'out'.
Ádh mór ort! (That's how they say "good luck" in Ireland!)

Hotel Marketing : Why I Feel Sorry for Chain Hotels

collection of chain hotel logos
Why would anyone feel sorry for chain hotels?  Aren’t branded hotels the ones with all of the fancy programs and the big advertising budgets?  Wouldn’t chain-affiliated hotels have clout that independent's can’t compete with?

Yes, to a certain extent, they do.  But the chain advantage is eroding.  The internet has leveled the playing field with independents.

According to a June 2010 DemandGen Report, 78% of B2B buyers check out potential suppliers online before they pick up the phone.  This might be on the supplier’s website, through third-party sites or even social media.  And increasingly buyers are looking for brands with personality and unique appeal.  This is where chain hotels are increasingly at a disadvantage.

(Note: the names of specific brands have been omitted to protect the innocent and perhaps the not-so-innocent…).

Chain hotels rarely can have custom content on their website.  It doesn’t matter which brand you look at.  Hotels must fit the corporate mold, filling in the blanks so that information is presented on the corporate website in a uniform manner.

  • If individual properties offer unique programs, anything that would differentiate hotel A from hotel B, it is rarely available on the branded hotel’s page.  A meeting planner has to call a hotel to get that information emailed to them.
Case in point: I was visiting a wonderful Chicago hotel last November, and the sales manager who walked me through the site inspection had great knowledge of their hotel’s unique banquet production and cooking system.  She gave me excellent examples of how this gives them a competitive edge in their local catering market.  Is there any mention of this on their website?  No!  Unfortunately, the hotel has no flexibility to include this anywhere on their corporate-sanctioned website.
  • If any chain hotel has a blog (a rarity), they are not allowed to connect it to their hotel page. 
  • Many chain hotels, regardless of brand, are told social media is the purview of corporate headquarters.  If a hotel has a Twitter account it is often used strictly for leisure purposes (e.g. “come check out our weekend rates”).  Heck, I’ve even heard of corporate HQ types trying to “control the messaging” of some of their “field” Tweeters by issuing “guidelines”.  Did these corporate types not hear what happened in Egypt and Libya?  Contrast that with independents who have real personalities and even know how to have fun (check out the Drake Hotel on Twitter and The Lord Elgin’s bed-jumping video on YouTube).  
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is often entirely leisure-driven because it is controlled by corporate HQ marketing types whose job is only leisure and image focused.  Intelligent B2B marketing, with rich content generation that can generate leads, is rarely on their radar screen.
  • Because they operate with clunky legacy systems like Delphi and Opera SFA, most hotel companies cannot run efficient lead nurturing campaigns with marketing automation tools that connect with their website interface and their CRM or PMS. 
We often hear hotels complain about the pressure on their rates and how the market is so competitive.  And unless they can differentiate their local flair and offer proof that they can be more than cookie-cutter buildings, chain hotels are doomed to suffer the highs – and lows – of the commodities they are becoming in the eyes of meeting planners everywhere.

Would love to hear from the hospitality sales & marketing pros out there!

Hearing No Objections while Prospecting?

An objection
My job here at Greenfield involves getting our team ready for lead generation projects for hotel, CVB and other meetings industry clients. Recently while speaking with a Sales Manager for a destination, I asked her what some of the standard/typical objections were that she faced when she made her prospecting calls.

To my surprise she answered, “I don’t get objections – there are none”.  I was so stunned I didn't know how to respond (and for those who know me, this should surprise you).

I was surprised because objections are such a natural evolution of the prospecting process.  To not encounter any is unimaginable to me. Maybe in this case, the Sales Manager did not want to look weak or unprepared for the question I posed in front of our team.  I do believe though that this is an old-fashioned way of thinking – and it will make prospects hang up the phone.

When I asked the same question of another destination rep he said, “The biggest object we hear is the driving time from the closest airport to our destination.”  And when asked how they handle this, the response was, “By informing the contact that the highway has been extended, and comparing it to a drive in their local region – i.e. it may be a 90-minute drive to our destination from the airport, but that time is similar to rush-hour traffic in Toronto from many outlying areas.”  For our team, this was a GREAT start to come up with talking points in order to effectively address the objection!

While no one will ever be able to get around every objection, being prepared for them is a critical element for success when prospecting.

Remember:  Listen to what they are saying (and not saying).  And, as Colleen Francis, one of our Sales Trainers, always says: STOP.  ACKNOWLEDGE.  ASK.  Hear them out, acknowledge what you heard, and ask another question to further clarify – it will help you get around the objection, and may ultimately give you what you want – new business.

The Future of Meetings

Recently Meeting Professionals International sent me a request to participate in a survey regarding the future of the meetings industry. Funded by the MPI Foundation this initiative is featured as part of a series of Thought Leadership Initiatives to help planners succeed today and tomorrow.

We all get lots of requests to complete surveys but for some reason this one drew my attention.  It came with a warning that this wouldn’t be a boring, multiple-choice questionnaire; it required essay-type answers and original thought!  It took me almost two hours for me to complete (good grief!).

But half-way through I realized that instead of just sending my answers to the Maritz researchers, I should copy them for our own blog.  If you haven’t had a chance to take the survey, read on.

What do you think is the future of the meetings and events industry? How do you see the meeting industry evolving? In other words, what significant changes are you seeing?

Because of rising prices, I see the meetings industry becoming more elitist. Airlines have applied strict yielding strategies, making some travel increasingly unaffordable. Hotel management companies are also under pressure from their ownership to increase returns. I think this will cause organizations to "regionalize" some meetings, especially for lower to middle managers.  It'll be too expensive to send them away, so they'll keep them closer to home.

This is already happening.  As opposed to one national meeting, companies are having 2-3 smaller regional meetings, where a number of attendees can drive.  By doing this companies also are reducing the length of meetings.

The more distant destinations will attract only senior executives who have the budgets for more expensive travel. I believe this has serious implications for destinations such as Hawaii -- demand overall will be significantly lower.  Incidentally all of these developments will be exacerbated by rising oil prices.

On the more positive side, the above will give rise to more virtual and hybrid events, creating a whole new set of jobs and businesses. Just look at the number of consultants who now specialize in social media strategies for meetings!

Because of the cost of meeting face-to-face is increasing, I believe the value of such meetings will increase in the eyes of participants. Whereas in the past participants would see their association's annual convention as "just another convention", in the future this may be viewed with more respect -- their ONLY opportunity to connect with colleagues.

As a side note I see companies increasing their individual travel budget for sales purposes. Bringing reps together with buyers in one-on-one meetings more often is becoming a “new old tool” in the arsenal of customer loyalty management.

How are you preparing for those changes in your business?

For one thing we are stepping up individual travel so we can meet with clients one-on-one more often. Because we have flexibility in scheduling, this allows us to book during shoulder periods, etc.

We are also developing new expertise to help our clients develop new business in creative ways. We've launching into marketing automation, content creation and social media so we can help facilitate their activities.

Lastly we're advising clients to develop stronger relationships with their local/regional markets as a more effective way of spending their marketing and sales dollars.

What do you see staying the same?

Does anything EVER stay the same? :-)  Let's see: the role of hotel brand Global/National Sales Offices and Convention & Visitor Bureaus in the meeting sales process I believe will remain relatively stable.

I think we will continue to have to fight to get the meetings industry recognized as such, and the value meeting professionals bring to the table. Our "right" to the seat at the table will continue to be difficult to articulate and quantify.  I'm saying this because I don't think we moved the needle in this last recession... The world still doesn't understand what we do (everybody was happy to bash the meetings industry, including the U.S. President!). We were caught unprepared. Shame on us.

The above is an excerpt of the questions and my answers.  So what are your thoughts on the Future of Meetings? Share your thoughts and comments below!

Prospecting: How a Die Hard Fan Finds Her Man!

When making group lead generation calls, what should you do when your contact is no longer there?

John McClane 150x150
This happened to me the other day: I was trying to reach one of my meeting planner contacts but her name was no longer in the auto directory. There was no way to reach a live person without a proper name. What was I going to do? How do I get to the receptionist? Is there a receptionist?

I went to the website to see if I could find a name for anyone within the company. I thought if I could get a name, any name I may at least be able to reach a voicemail hit "0" and hopefully speak to a real live person.

Luck was on my side; on the website was a listing of Executives. Not that I had high expectations that any of these names were of people who were involved with planning offsite meetings and events. I decided on the name of the Vice President of something or other.

So I called the number again, dialed # for the directory and punched in the numbers that corresponded with the letters of his name. To my surprise a voice came on the line saying “John speaking” I began by introducing myself and the hotel I was representing and then explained my dilemma. I told him about going to the website and finding his name and thinking, “Hey if John McLane can’t help me, who can?” after we both chuckled, I said, “I bet you get that a lot.” To which he admitted he did but it broke the ice. I went from talking to the VP of can’t remember what, to speaking with John. (For those of you who don’t know, John McLean is the name of Bruce Willis’ character in Die Hard!)

And just as I had hoped, he came to my rescue. Giving me some details of the meetings that he oversees and let me know when they would be ready to look at planning for 2011. He recommended I call back him back at a later date and offered to introduce me to the person who handles the logistics at that time.

It’s such a great feeling to make a real connection. This is the kind of call I like to keep in my pocket so that when I’m having a slow or frustrating day, I can pull it out and smile.

10 Tips to Increase your Sales and Marketing Productivity

Dollar Increase
Over the holidays I was in Germany, enjoying time with my husband’s family.  One thing that never ceases to amaze me about Europeans is the number of days they have off compared to North Americans.

A number of HR studies have supported this observation. According to a 2007 study by Mercer Consulting, the average European gets 30+ of paid vacation and statutory holidays per year, whereas Americans and Canadians get barely 20.

Another study reported that Americans work an average 1,804 hours versus 1,436 hours in Germany – the equivalent of nine extra 40-hour workweeks per year. I’m sure these numbers didn’t improve with the recession, when many workers felt pressured not to take time off for fear of repercussions.

But experts maintain taking time off has important benefits including improved health, productivity and creativity. And when are many of us often most productive? Just before leaving on vacation! So maybe this is a new win-win formula for 2011? Get productive, take time off, come back rested and be even more productive?

As a business owner I’ve had great difficulty to make myself take time off (almost as difficult as keeping my weight down, but that’s another story…). After spending thousands on seminars, books, and coaches, here are my top 10 recommendations:

1. Time block: Colleen, my sales coach, advised me to do this. While it is one of the most difficult things to do, it is also the most effective. Use time blocking to make client follow-up calls. Shut your door, put your phone on do-not-disturb, and start calling. I never get to the 20 people I need to reach in a day, but I usually talk to 4-5. Hopefully my voice mail message will also help me stay top-of-mind with the other 15-16 clients. (See also tips on leaving voice mails).

2. Take a break: I’m sure you’ve experienced this. You’ve been in meetings, on the phone, sending emails between calls, and being interrupted by staff asking for input on something. After 2-3 hours of non-stop activity you reach a saturation point and can’t seem to be able to make one more move. You need a break! What works best for me is to step out for a walk. Getting fresh air is apparently a way to boost your brainpower!

3. Limit your social media time: OK, you may not be guilty of this, but I certainly fell into this trap a few times… Social media is a great way to connect with people, but it can also be a huge time waster. Now I limit my time on Twitter and LinkedIn to ½ hour each, twice per week.

4. Turn off emails: Many salespeople have ADHD. We find it hard to resist checking emails when doing paperwork. But that pesky little window won’t tempt you if you turn it off. You can finish that proposal quicker, and then get back online!

5. Automate your client contact: Salespeople will always have more people to talk to than they can ever manage to do in one day. But for those times when you really fall behind in your client contact, automating your client contact is a great way to increase productivity. E-newsletters are a great way to keep yourself in front of a client, without having to be involved personally. Make sure your message offers value, and that you make time for personal interaction with your most important clients. If you need help with this, see information about our Funnel Activator.

6. Hire a coach: Nothing will make you more productive than having to account to someone else for progress; that’s why professional athletes hire coaches and programs like Weight Watchers work! See our list of training & coaching resources).

7. Reward yourself: Remember when mom would say if you finish dinner then you can have ice cream? We’re all still kids at heart. Your reward doesn’t have to be full of calories either; the reward I’ve promised myself this month is another Pandora bead for a bracelet I got at Christmas… Be good to yourself!

8. Don’t keep it in your head: Do you find yourself remembering things to do, people to call and other ideas any day of the week, at all hours of the day (or night). Productivity expert David Allen advises to keep a book and write all those things down. Then go back to doing whatever you were doing. Try it; it works!

9. Make the most of no-service time: When I’m flying and can’t use my BlackBerry, I find it’s a great time to write personal notes or catching up on my business reading. I pack personal note cards and a few magazines for the trip. What do you do to take advantage of your time offline?

10. Outsource: Preaching for my parish here … If you’re too busy to get a list qualified, or a portion of your database updated, hire someone to do it. Whether you choose to call Greenfield, or hire a student, just do it! Having an updated contact list will make you a more productive (and hopefully successful) salesperson.

Want more ideas? Check out:
Do you have a productivity tip to share?  Please leave us a comment!