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working with third party meeting planners

Working with third party meeting planners and site selection professionals

If you’re working in sales in the meetings industry, chances are you’ve had opportunity to work with third party meeting planners and site selection professionals on some of your programs.

While some association and corporations have in-house planners that plan all aspects of their programs, many choose to outsource planning (which may or may not include site selection) to planners and site selection professionals in order to save themselves some time and money.  More importantly, when outsourcing some of the elements of their meeting, in-house planners can focus on more strategic matters, or matters that require an insider’s perspective and expertise.

Working with third party meeting planners and site selection professionals is not really different than working for in-house planners, except for a few differences:

  1. Multiple programs – third party meeting planners and site selection pros are likely working on multiple programs at the same time
  2. This is their career – chances are this group of planners has chosen this as their full time career, and their daily tasks predominantly tie into the meetings industry
  3. This is their BUSINESS – most third party planners and site selection professionals had to GROW their business from the ground up.  Each program’s success dictates their ability to win the next piece of business!  How’s THAT for being stressed out each day?!?
  4. Certifications- most of these planners take their careers very seriously and look to improve on their skillsets continually.

Knowing that you’re working with what some may consider the “elite” of the industry, how do your communications change when working with them?

Here are some tips that may help you better connect with your third party planner client:

  1. Frame of reference in email – often third parties and site selection professionals are working on multiple programs at the same time.  When communicating with them, referencing the program name is very helpful.   Its difficult to remember every single property we sent the RFP out for every single program.  Some properties receive multiple leads for a variety of programs from the same third party.
  2. Patience when looking for a status update – As a responsible meeting partner, you require (and deserve) a status update on the proposals you have sent out.  Third party planners and site selection professionals are notoriously bad for sending updates.  Its often because of lack of time, or lack of update.  Our clients often do not provide an update that we can in turn pass along to you.
  3. Read the RFP – Many questions that meeting partners have for third party planner and site selection professionals can be found right in the RFP.  Other questions can be answered through your experience as a meeting partner.  If clarification is required, try setting up a call with the planner versus surprising them with a phone call about questions that are already answered in the RFP. Keep in mind again, often the third party planner or site selection professional is not privy to the info you are looking for – its either hasn’t been shared by the end-user, or the end-user doesn’t know the answer.
  4. Limit the follow up – Related to #3, a decision date is likely in the RFP, so please respect the planner and wait until the date for decision.  Looking for a decision before the decision date may not be fruitful in building the relationship with the planner.
  5. In the end, we are the client’s advocate – while we strive for win-win, it can be a difficult balance when clients ask or demand that we see if the hotel can provide additional value on a proposal.  Third party planners and site-selection professionals will do their best to be respectful while working hard to ensure our client obtains the best possible proposal for them to make decisions.
  6. We are also YOUR advocate – when all things are considered equal, we are your best advocate for helping the client make a decision.

Leanne’s Note about Third Parties and Site Selection Profs working TOGETHER –  Often clients will seek proposals from independent third party planners through their trusted site selection professional!  It makes good business sense for third parties and site selection peeps to also develop good working relationships – you never know when you may need to lean on one another!

By keeping these tips in mind, you may be well on your way to cultivating and growing your business relationship with your third party planner.  You never know what business you may uncover by doing so :)  Best of luck!

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