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Advice from a Meeting Planner to Suppliers

This post is by guest contributor Cara Tracy, CMP, CMM.  Cara is a meetings industry professional who has been on the supply side of the industry, as well as the planning side.  This post was originally titled: "Know your customer … or make it seem like you do!"  

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One of my biggest pet peeves is a sales pitch or presentation from someone who doesn’t know their audience. I don’t expect you to know me or my organization personally (although doing your homework will get you further in my book), however there are a few basics you should know when selling to meeting planners.
  • Watch your wording
    UKnow the differences between market segments and tailor your pitch accordingly. For example, do not refer to an association as a “company.” If you aren’t sure, call it an “organization.” Also, unless the planner clearly works for a third party or is an independent, don’t assume they have clients. When you refer to my “clients”, it tells me that you do not understand my business or associations in general. A safe term to use is “attendees”. All meeting planners have attendees.
  • Don’t claim to be something you’re not
    A fellow planner received an email from a 160-room hotel claiming to be a “perfect match” for her meetings. In fact, the hotel’s website touts “The perfect fit for your next meeting or social event.” In my friend’s case, they aren’t even close—her program attracts over 4,000 attendees! Once you’ve done your research and know your property can accommodate my program, say something like “other national associations with similar size groups have found our hotel ideal for their annual convention.” And remember “fit” doesn’t necessarily mean size. In my case, I look at the feel of the property, location, amenities, among other things—and what’s important to me varies from meeting to meeting.
  • Don’t spend time telling me things that don’t interest me
    On a recent site inspection, my hotel sales manager incorrectly assumed that because I work for the National Speakers Association we have high-profile or celebrity presenters who require private access onto the property. She spent a great deal of time walking us to the “secret entrance” and discussing how they can discreetly bring our VIP guests into the hotel. By simply asking “do you have high-profile guests that require a separate entrance?”, she could have avoided wasting our time and making herself look like she didn’t know her customer.
  • Look me up
    If you are making a ton of solicitation calls or sending a mass email and don’t have time to “do your homework” on every customer, at the very least, check your database to see if I’ve used your property before. Nothing turns me off more than an introduction call from a new sales manager asking if I would consider using their hotel when we were just there the year before. Even worse is if I have an upcoming program! On the other hand, don’t over-generalize and assume everyone on your list has used your hotel and thank me for business I didn’t book.
When it comes down to it, the more time you spend preparing the better. You may not get through as many calls but the quality of those calls (and the outcome) will improve significantly. How do you learn about your customers and potential customers?

How do you learn about your customers and potential customers?