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An Event Planner's View on Bad Salesmanship

During my time with Greenfield Services, I had been involved in the meetings industry in a supporting role.  I have helped with research and business development projects for hotels and other meetings industry suppliers, but never actually worked at a hotel.   When it came to understanding the state of sales and marketing practices in the hospitality industry, I relied mostly on my colleague Doreen’s thoughts on lazy sales reps and the commoditization of the meetings industry.

That is, until recently.

Now, planning a new event for Greenfield (The Engaging Association Summit), I've had to source and secure a meeting venue that was unique, attractive and truly wanted our business.  Here is what I encountered after I isolated three potential venues that I thought would be suitable:

Venue A:  I reached to this venue by email, with a message to the sales manager listed on their website, asking for a site inspection for the event being planned in July.  I received an out of office reply with another contact name, so I sent an email to the new contact as well.  A few days later (after never hearing from the new contact), the sales manager got back to me by email to advise that their facility was undergoing extensive renovations, and would not be available to view on the day I was asking for.  She then proceeded to ask me if there was something we could chat about, so I forwarded her the RFP I had prepared, asking for a call or a response with pricing, etc.  I never heard from them again.

Venue B:  A little better, but not by much. This venue was also reached by email, asking for a site inspection.  Their General Manager got back to me immediately, advising that he personally would be busy on the day that I was hoping for a site inspection, but his Sales Manager would be happy to walk me through the facility.  I booked an appointment, and on the day of the inspection, she walked me through the facility, talked about different set ups, and took me back to her office to go through some sample pricing.  She wrote on scrap paper to start adding up costs, and offered to send me away with that.  I left her with the RFP and asked her to email me a formal proposal instead by the deadline I requested.  She did respond by the deadline, but had simply typed what she had written on the scrap paper in the body of the email.  I never heard from her again.  I have even seen her at industry events since, and she has not even approached me!

Venue C:  This venue, thankfully, went above and beyond.  The representative responded to me right away.  She walked me through the options available to me for the event space I required.  We did not talk pricing during the site inspection; I left her with my RFP, and she promised to prepare a proper document.  She sent me on my merry way, validating my ticket for parking.  Throughout our interactions, this rep made sure I knew that they truly wanted my business.  We have had numerous phone conversations for clarification, and they have worked hard to get the business. They sent me a REAL proposal to review, and have come back to me with additional options to help me make my event as successful as possible.

I can only hope that my experience with the first two venues is not indicative of what is happening in the meetings industry in Ottawa or elsewhere.  The lack of follow-through and professionalism was truly appalling.  I would encourage venue managers to "mystery shop" their sales teams.  They might find they need to make drastic changes.

Thanks to Nathalie Boulet and the Canadian Museum of Nature for going the extra mile.  I am very much looking forward to our ongoing partnership for Our Engaging Association Summit!