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 just at their fingertips – that is, until they reach the hotel sales department.

Whether working with a newbie, a non-traditional meeting planner, or an event planning veteran, most hotel sales people today often miss the mark on building the level of trust vital to driving repeat business.

The concept they’re lacking? Transparency.

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 was up front and clear about the fees before the contract was signed. 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 meeting planners want more than that 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, what meeting planners want are transparency and full disclosure. Someone to be straight with them.

Shari Martinez, event manager for FileMaker, Inc, an Apple subsidary, calls this the “part she likes the least about the business.”

“I don’t need the fluff,” Martinez said. “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 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 was honest we could have worked together to figure it out,” Martinez said. “Instead I felt that they were always looking out for their best interest.

Of course, there was no relationship formed. No transparency. I could never trust them.”

The most successful hotel sales managers truly care about their planners’ success. They want their clients to be educated. They want their planners 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 meeting planner you come in contact with – win or lose.

Transparency Tips for Hotel Sales

Here’s how transparency in group business should look:

  • Putting your client relationship above your room night goals
  • Spending time educating and informing, rather than sugarcoating and stretching the truth just to win the business.
  • Making the effort to brainstorm and clarify, rather than simply dining, wining and wowing.
  • Being the source of information about your destination and your property that meeting planners can’t get anywhere else
  • Being upfront about fees and offering the planner solutions on how to bring unnecessary costs down
  • Helping meeting planners make smarter decisions, instead of rushing them into swift decisions to meet month end goals.
  • Looking out for potential conflicts that could derail your client’s success and discussing that beforehand
  • Engaging in a 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,” said Milnes. “In the end, I would definitely trust the salesperson more if they are upfront with me.”

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.