I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Michelle Sedlak, the Director of Sales and Marketing at the Holiday Inn Stevens Point Convention Center, about using Insight – Knowland’s meeting intelligence platform.
She was frank. She was open. She was a breath of fresh air.
Within a year, Michelle and her team booked more than $101,000 of group business through Knowland. I wanted to pick her brain on tips for success, so I gave her a call.
KL: Tell me more about your property and your team, Michelle.
MS: The Holiday Inn Stevens Point Convention Center, one of three properties I oversee, is smack dab in the middle of Wisconsin. The convention center has about 38,000 square feet of space to fill. We have a team of four and we’re deployed by markets to prospect for groups.
KL: And what’s the market like in the middle of Wisconsin?
MS: Associations. You wouldn’t believe how many associations there are here. There’s one for people who make milk bottles, one for people who make milk bottle caps, one for the people who collect the milk bottle caps.
KL: Sounds like a “Got milk?” campaign in the making. You’ve been using the new Insight platform since March, is that helping you find some of these associations? Or more diverse group business?
MS: Insight is most valuable to my team as a research tool. We search for groups primarily based on dates and location. Then we look at what data Knowland has on the number of rooms they typically actualize and their booking pattern history.
Recently in Insight, we found an agriculture organization headquartered in Madison that had held events there before, but had never considered our location. I saw strong potential value in this account because of the variety of functions they held annually, the amount of space they used (up to 25,000 square feet), and the dates they had booked historically. I made the effort to visit them in Madison to talk to them about our location and what we had to offer them.
KL: So there’s a human element involved – you actually made the effort to develop a relationship.
MS: Of course. That’s our job. Knowland can help you find group business, but at the end of the day, it’s your job as a sales person to go out there and get it. Because I developed a personal relationship with this client, we ended up getting their business for a convention in June that will bring in more than $20,000 in room revenue and about $20,000 F&B, too. They meet in the US every three years, so we’re already looking at 2019 dates as well. Without Knowland, we never would have known this piece of business existed.
KL: And vice versa – the organization never would have known your property existed.
MS: Exactly. You have to get yourself in front of these groups and planners — ahead of the decision-making process. Researching groups in the Knowland database can give you options. Even if you talk to an organization and they don’t need your space at that time, keep the conversation open. Follow what they’ve been up to by keeping track of their activity in Insight, and follow up with them so that you’re always on the top of their mind. Down the road, they may want to book an event with you, but they won’t realize it unless you make yourself memorable.
KL: What other successes have you spurred using Insight?
MS: After one major win in Madison, I thought we should do a sales blitz there. We used Insight to target dates from 2011 to 2014 as well as activity at competitor properties. You can download the data and put it in excel. We were looking to develop relationships with accounts in particular that would book annually, biyearly, or every three to five years. We ended up with a list of 69 groups, spoke to 40 of them, and left messages for the remaining 29.
KL: Did you find any other new pieces of business?
MS: We did. We found five more pieces of new business, improved relationships with many, and now have a list of targets for the future. Of the six total we booked from Insight through this effort, all of them are coming back. Some year after year, others in the next two years. We’ve rebooked several for or through 2018. There are probably more than just the six, but these I know we can directly tie to Knowland.
KL: And that’s turned up quite a bit of revenue for you?
MS: Yes. But the most important return for us is still the relationships. Knowland helps us research where to invest our time, but it’s up to us to make sure we’ll have business return for years to come.
KL: If you had one piece of advice for how best to use Insight, what would you say to sales teams?
MS: You’ll get out of Insight what you put in. You put junk in, you get junk out. You can’t just let it sit there. I make it mandatory that my team spends at least an hour and a half in Insight every week and distribute leads to the person who would own the account. That’s all it takes.
KL: Would you say having enough time is often an issue because of managing inbound RFPs, etc?
MS: Yes, but you do have time. On Friday at 3 p.m., lock yourself in your office, log on to Insight, and do some research. Put together a prospect list that you can use to hit the ground running on Monday and drive your successes. If you don’t have time for that, you don’t have time to make your goals and you’re taking money out of our pocket. If you’re already at goal, you can always do more.
KL: I like the way you run things! So, in summary, what it takes to book $100,000 of new business with Insight is…
MS: Doing your homework, using Insight for an hour and a half weekly, working as a structured team, and building relationships.
KL: Thanks, Michelle. Keep it up!
MS: Thank you!
Interview conducted by Katherine Leiden, Marketing Manager at Knowland.
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