So many things have changed in the meetings industry over the past few months, and things will continue to change in the months and years ahead. How hotel sales managers relate to meeting planners is no different, and we’re already seeing some incredibly well thought out campaigns on how to connect with meeting planners, but also some tone-deaf communications that have left a bitter taste in planners’ mouths as it relates to hotel and destination marketing messages.
How you sell to meeting planners post-COVID19 will look different. Not “may look different”, not “could be different”, it WILL LOOK DIFFERENT. Your value proposition is more important than ever when communicating with planners.
At the time of this blog post writing, we are all still under “shelter in place” orders for most communities, and many hotels are limited to gatherings of less than 10, or some are still simply not open. All foreseeable future events and meetings are now canceled or being canceled, and there is no end in sight as to the meeting and event cancellations.
A question many hotels and destinations may be asking themselves right now is “why should we be continuing to prospect and sell to meeting planners?”
As someone who hears from hotels every day, here is a list of reasons why you need to continue your efforts to connect with meeting planners:
- Your hotel is in continual change – be it opening/closing, changing hygiene practices, staff changes etc – there is ALWAYS something to communicate. You can frame these updates as valuable assets to a planner given their current plight.
- Stay top of mind – Other hotels and destinations ARE sending updates and communications. They may not be spot-on assets, but they are out there. If you shrink back now, you’ll be playing catch-up when meetings start up again
- Planners WANT to hear from you! Yes, planners want to hear from you. They are looking for updates and are keen to know what is going on.
Which then raises the question – “HOW do we sell to meeting planners when no one is meeting?”
Hotel and destination friends, believe it or not, you still need to be in front of your meeting planner clients and prospects during this time. In fact, I’ve detailed some budget-friendly ideas on ways to stay connected with planners, (even if you are furloughed!) You can find those ideas here.
Here is HOW you can sell to meeting planner in a post COVID19 environment:
- Firstly, start researching clients from scratch – your meeting planner client may be furloughed, or worse, laid off. Do your research before reaching out the organization to see who is helping out with meetings
- Forget the hard sell – There are lots of meeting planners that are signing event contracts right now, and lots that are not. Don’t lean in with your hotel specs; it may come across as tone-deaf to a large portion of your audience.
- Include new operating procedures at the hotel – enlighten your meeting planner clients and prospects on the new hygiene practices, or how your hotel will manage buffet lines and other high-touch places
- Highlight new meeting space capacities that include “social distancing” options – for groups that require these flexibilities, you’ll need a brand new capacity chart and floor plan to show your client
- Highlight promotions and flexibilities in contracting – now, more than ever, landing a new piece of business will depend on your flexibility on contract terms. Be proactive and showcase some “hard to beat” deals at your property or brand
- Provide value, unrelated to your hotel or destination offering – Now is the time to focus on your relational selling strategies and cultivate trust with your client above all else. Providing value and expecting nothing in return can be your contribution to the event planners that need some care and kindness right now.
- Be unconventional – since the selling tactics of days past will no longer prove effective, now is the time to get creative and find ways to connect with your planners and prospects. I’ve detailed 8 Budget-Friendly Ideas on how YOU can connect with your clients and prospects in fun, memorable ways.
A word for those of you who are currently furloughed – I get it friends, you’re not receiving a paycheck, but spending some time (yes, your own time, on your own dime) to continue connecting with planners will serve you very well for when you get back to work for your organization. Don’t get left behind.
Hotel partners, I hope you found this encouraging. While the positioning is different, our industry built on relationships continues to march on. Reach out! Connect! And together, let’s create a phenomenal meetings future!
Photo by: Chen Mizrach, Unsplash