Not all hotels are created equal. And neither are event planners.
Today, most meeting planners aren’t privy to hotel availability and pricing. So, they end up fanning their RFP across the country, hoping to find that perfect venue among hundreds (if not thousands) of options. This has been the norm for years, facilitated and worsened by the ease of online distribution systems and the rise of intermediaries.
Groups360 executives have decades of experience working for the country’s largest convention hotels and resorts. In our experience, meeting planners tend to send the same RFP to several hotels in the same region. This means that if you receive an RFP, you can expect your neighboring hotel comp set has received it as well.
The most successful hotel sales teams are smart about standing out to win that business.
Know your “It factor” and demonstrate it
Differentiate yourself from the beginning. Go back to your hotel’s SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and compare it against your hotel comp set. What can you offer groups better than any other property? What do you have that they don’t? Take time to thoroughly think this through so you can prove to the event planner that you are different.
For example, during our time at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, many would assume our It factor was the hotel’s stunning, soaring atriums and remarkable meeting space. The truth, however, was that most of our competitors also had fantastic meeting space.
The real difference was a palpable culture of excellence and commitment to exceeding expectations with our meetings and events. To prove it, we spent much of our site visit with corporate event planners in the back of the house — areas where event planners could see the team working together. They could see and feel how much our staff focused on delighting customers.
Whatever makes you different, lead with that in every proposal and any marketing campaigns aimed at the meetings market. Be sure it’s demonstrable. Help the meeting planner pick you out from a crowd.
Find out what the event planner truly wants
Drill down on what matters most to the meeting planner. What are the vital decision points? Even if they simply answer with a variation of rates/dates/space, it’s up to you to dig even deeper to find out what lies beyond those basic answers. What amenities are important? Do airport transfers matter? How does weather play into their decision?
We built GroupSync with meeting planners in mind so that hotels who receive certified market leads from the platform list in detail what is important to the event planner.
A certified market lead from GroupSync automatically prompts event planners to fill out vital information ahead of time so you will know exactly what’s important to winning the group business. We understand from the hotelier’s perspective that better information leads to better responses. This is a major benefit not just to hotel sales teams but also for the event planner.
Get a genuine ranking of the event planner’s priorities
Find out what the event planner’s priorities are for awarding the business. The lowest rate doesn’t always win. In fact, our data indicates that the event planner chooses the lowest rate just shy of 40% of the time. You may have to help the event planner rank their hot buttons.
Ask targeted questions to home in on their top concerns. For example, “Based on last year’s event surveys, what did attendees value most? What do they want to see more of this year? What are your must-have meeting space capabilities? How important is having a spa/golf/outdoor dining option? If rate/dates/space were all even, what would make you choose one property over another?”
These priorities are already ranked for hotels with a GroupSync certified market lead.
Get creative when filling in the gaps
You must know the customer’s key decision points and their priorities before presenting a proposal. As we like to say at Groups360, “Forewarned is forearmed.” If certain amenities are critical to winning the business, whip up creative solutions to address the event planner’s needs.
Does the meeting planner want a reception venue with a gorgeous ocean view? Partner with a beachfront restaurant with stunning outdoor space and offer free transportation. Is having a spa important to attendees? Work with a nearby wellness resort for a special deal for attendees.
Offer relevant venue videos and photos
Meeting planners are usually focused on the logistics of planning their event. They need the right visuals to help them envision their event at your property. What helps the most? Photos of previous events and video tours of your space.
Create online photos galleries and categorize by event type, such as reception, conference, or business dinner. Shoot virtual 360-degree tours of your property, meeting space and rooms. This is especially helpful to nontraditional meeting planners who don’t plan events full time and who may not have time to travel for in-person site inspections.