By: Laura Needham
Relying on inbound RFPs as your primary source of business not only affects your bottom line, but also facilitates bad habits when selling group. Eventually when you need to shift your source of business to include proactive selling you realize you don’t have the skill-set to have effective communications. Below are five bad habits every group sales rep should break for a better chance at securing group business.
- Providing irrelevant or incomplete information to busy meeting planners based on a standard template. Raise your hand if you’re guilty: you receive an inbound RFP, and in your rush to be a be one of the first responders, you send the meeting planner a beautiful brochure about your property along with a PDF of room rates and your cancellation policy… and that’s it. Zero customization of your response, and no effort to understand the planner’s needs. Basically, zero effort to stand out. Now ask yourself, when has that approach ever converted into an immediate sale? With the growing demand for non-traditional spaces and experiences, there simply are no shortcuts for securing business with meeting planners; and by rushing your response, you have now shown the planner that you did not read the RFP (which may have been a total chore for the planner to craft), and their first call with you might as well be a cold call. Instead, we recommend contacting the planner to let them know to expect a response from you, but you want to take the time necessary to make it compelling, if that works for them. That way, you’ll still alert the planner of your interest in their business early on, and the extra preparation will effectively give you the real head start you’re looking for.
- Reaching out to meeting planners with uninspired questions. When reaching out to meeting planners, what kinds of questions are you asking them? Are you looking to find out what their bottom line numbers are, or are you tailoring your questions to what you know about the planner and their past events? Seventy-four percent of Americans prioritize experiences over products, so calling planners just to have the generic dates, rates, and space discussion isn’t engaging enough. What’s worse, you look like you’re going through the motions rather than truly demonstrating to the planner that you want their business. By proactively researching the account’s history and crafting the right discovery questions, you’ll show the meeting planner that you’ve done your homework and that you would be a collaborative partner in their success.
- Throwing in concessions or lowering your price as a way to compete before you know what the deciding factors are. By commoditizing group business, you might be giving up potential revenue than you really need to by immediately offering concessions and discounts in an effort to look more attractive than your competitors. Sell the destination first, then your property. Consider other factors that might play into a meeting planner’s decision: perhaps they favor a brand group, market, location type, or chain scale. What is it about those factors that makes your property a strong fit, and what can you offer to match and even go beyond that criteria? Armed with the historical knowledge of the planner’s past decisions, you can drill down on what is really important to them and find profitable solutions for both the planner and your property.
- Turning down events quickly without any additional outreach. An astounding 53.9% of respondents to our recent Source of Business survey confessed to responding to every inbound RFP with no prioritization. It is true that not every event is going to be a good fit for your hotel, which is why we at Knowland are huge proponents of prioritizing inbound leads; however, that doesn’t mean you have to say goodbye forever to an account based on one meeting that doesn’t match your needs. This is precisely what many hotels tried to do when we were sourcing meeting spaces for our recent Roadshow, and as a result, they missed out on opportunities to sell us on our other annual and semiannual group meetings. So even if a specific inbound lead is not a fit, you can potentially turn the interaction into a proactive selling opportunity to win a different meeting by inquiring about their series of events and highlighting your fit for other events the organization holds.
- Missing the opportunity to separate yourself individually as a consultative seller. In a recent poll, 13% of respondents admitted that they don’t often collaborate with the meeting planner when the opportunity walks through the metaphorical door. Meeting planners want a collaborative partner, and not collaborating with a planner means forcing them into the frustrating task of prodding you for solutions for every aspect of their meeting. Frankly, if a planner has ghosted you, they probably found a better seller who was able to expedite their decision-making by proactively offering solutions up-front. By not showing that you can be a trusted advisor to the planner, you not only risk losing the current booking in question, but also the opportunity to create a personal relationship for future direct bookings (i.e. repeat business).
And of course, the crux of these bad habits is relying on inbound RFPs as a “strategy” for winning group business. By executing a Proactive Group Sales Strategy, you are empowered to sell smarter and create sustainable, repeatable, direct group business. In fact, done properly, you can head off the RFP altogether.