With sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, it’s hard for hotels to hide behind slick marketing and sales presentations. Consumers are now more accustomed to honest and upfront information right at their fingertips — that is, until they reach the hotel sales department.
Whether working with a newbie, a nontraditional meeting planner, or a veteran corporate event planner, most hotel salespeople today often miss the mark on building a level of trust vital to driving repeat business.
The concept they’re lacking? Transparency.
Transparency is essential to trust
When Sherryl Milnes first started planning meetings and events for her department at the California Highway Patrol 12 years ago, she wasn’t aware of the repercussions she would face when she overestimated her room block.
“After the event, I received a surprise invoice with an unexpected dollar amount,” Milnes remembers. She immediately called the hotel salesperson, who then explained the attrition fees.
“I wish the salesperson had been clear and up front about the fees before the contract was signed,” she says. “I then had the burden of figuring out how to explain the situation to my boss and from where to pull these extra funds.”
Hotel sales directors need to realize that what event planners want more than a perfect venue is a partner they can trust. By now, they’re so accustomed to the spa treatments, the over-the-top dinners, and the VIP treatment on-site inspections. At the end of the day, meeting planners want transparency and full disclosure — someone to be straight with them.
Shari Martinez, event manager for FileMaker Inc., an Apple subsidiary, considers this the part she likes the least about the business.
“I don’t need the fluff,” Martinez says. “Get to the point. It won’t make me uncomfortable. Don’t tell me 600 people can fit in the ballroom, when capacity is actually 550. It’s okay if your answer is no. I’d rather know the truth.”
She still remembers the property that once withheld a vital piece of information after she booked an event: Her space and dates were already contracted to another group.
Nonetheless, they went to contract. Just five months before her event, the hotel flew out a conference services manager to break the bad news and cancel on her.
“If the hotel had been honest, we could have worked together to figure it out,” Martinez says. “Instead, I felt that they were only looking out for their best interest. Of course, there was no relationship formed. No transparency. I could never trust them again.”
The most successful hotel sales managers truly care about their event planners’ success. They want their clients to be educated. They want their meeting professionals to be informed.
So why not be your client’s voice of truth? Why not address the issues that other sales managers don’t have the bravery to discuss? Make this year the year you earn the trust of every corporate event planner and meeting professional you come in contact with — win or lose.
Transparency tips for hotel salespeople
Here’s how transparency in group business should look:
- Put your client relationship above your room night goals.
- Spend time educating and informing, rather than sugarcoating and stretching the truth just to win the business.
- Make the effort to brainstorm and clarify, rather than simply dining, wining and wowing.
- Be the source of information about your destination and your property that meeting planners can’t get anywhere else.
- Be upfront about fees and offer the event planner solutions on how to bring down unnecessary costs.
- Help meeting and event planners make smarter decisions, instead of rushing them into swift decisions to meet month-end goals.
- Look out for potential conflicts that could derail your client’s success and discuss that beforehand.
- Engage in candid conversations about your venue’s pros and cons, along with workable solutions.
“I’d really like to hear both the pros and the cons ahead of time,” notes Milnes. “In the end, I would definitely trust the salesperson more if they are upfront with me.”
The bottom line
When you lead with transparency, you will differentiate yourself from the comp set with your openness, candor and honesty. Most importantly, this approach can develop longer lasting relationships that will continue long after the event is over.