In a world where almost every client interaction has turned digital — texting, video chatting, emailing — adding a personal touch to the remote interaction will pay off in spades.
Let’s not get lazy and forget that at the heart of the meetings industry, we are people dealing with other people. While it’s easier to move rapidly through the day, firing off emails with proposal after proposal while racing to meet our sales quotas, we still need to do our part to build rapport and nurture relationships with event planners.
Here are tips for creating and maintaining personal relationships with meeting and event planners in an increasingly digital world.
Do your research
Know the person you’re talking to. Research everything you can about the event planner, including how long that person has planned events for the company or association, where they went to school, the company itself, where they held the event previously, and any other relevant details.
Leverage LinkedIn as much as possible. You’d be surprised how many hotel sales people don’t double check LinkedIn profiles and end up spelling an event planner’s name incorrectly. Check out the company’s Facebook page, Twitter feed, and other social media accounts so you’re aware of their latest activities. Arm yourself with the knowledge to create an educated and customized proposal and to show the corporate event planner you care enough to devote extra time to such research.
Take the time to chat
After doing as much research as you can, pick up the phone and introduce yourself. Even if it’s only a voicemail, your message will lend warmth and personality to your digital bid.
This also gives you an opportunity to gain insight often lacking in an RFP, including identifying the final decision maker, characteristics of attendees, what has or hasn’t worked previously, and the desired outcome of the event.
Don’t make it all about business
In your research, make note of items you can relate to or in which you have a common experience or personal interest.
This commonality will serve as your icebreaker. For example, “I saw you went to college in San Diego. I lived there for four years. Do you miss the fish tacos as much as I do?” Pay attention to any comments that reveal a personal aspect of the corporate event planner’s life. Further in the process, when they agree to travel for a site visit, ask about their favorite foods and drinks and infuse those into your experience.
Respond promptly, but don’t rush
Take the time to prepare a carefully crafted proposal based on your research and conversations with the event planner. When you receive the RFP, send a reply that you have received it, are working on it, and will have the proposal ready shortly.
Tailor your response to the specific event
It should go without saying, but nothing sours the possibility of a profitable relationship with a corporate event planner more than a generic response that doesn’t address the event planner’s preferences and specific criteria included in the RFP.
If it’s not a fit, offer help anyway
Offer alternatives and suggestions if your venue can’t provide what the event planner is looking for. Position yourself as a destination expert and suggest options they might not have considered but would appreciate.
Give them a reason if you say “no thanks”
Whatever the reason, let the corporate event planner know why you cannot accommodate the group. Maybe there’s a competitor in house or a lack of meeting space or guest rooms. Maybe they require too much event space in proportion to the sleeping rooms booked. Although this particular event might not be a good fit, future ones may be, and building an ongoing relationship can more valuable in the long run.
Keep notes on the meeting planner along with relevant personal details whether you book the business or not. This includes birthdays, pets, favorite drinks, kids’ ages and other insights. Follow up every few months with a short email that mentions one of those relevant details. You might send them an interesting article and see if there’s anything in the pipeline you can work together on. Following up is vital for a healthy business relationship and is entirely in your favor to reap business down the road.
Successful relationships with event planners rely on personal communication both online and offline. Never get so caught up in digital forms and protocols that you lose touch with the human side of doing business.