Recently, at the Georgia MPI Meetings Exploration Conference, I had dinner with three of the opening general session panelists who would share their near-term outlook for the meetings industry. We all seemed to share the same sentiment: Our business is based on the benefits of people meeting face-to-face. That’s what meetings are, right? An opportunity for two or more to gather, share information, etc. Nothing new …
But in the face of continued low occupancy and less overall meeting activity, many of the national hotel chains are moving away from the personal relationship-building sales experience upon which their loyal customer base was built. Now, sales teams that may as well be located on what seem to be opposite sides of the country contend for my, and your, hotel business.
Now, if you don’t have a favorite chain, or a relationship with a national salesperson, you are probably thinking, “So what?” But what this means for you is higher rates, less concessions, more risk and contracts that are harder to implement.
I believe the old sayings “People do business with people they like and people they trust” and “Anyone can build a great hotel, but it’s the people that keep them running.“ Sometimes, it’s mutual respect that builds this trust, but in this business I’d like to believe that it’s more specifically a feeling of being taken care of that makes it happen. And when certain individuals that I trust move from one company to another, I typically will follow them, right along with my business. Why? Because they valued ME! Because they took care of my groups. They stood up for me when I needed a better rate or more space than I could justify, based on room block. We had a relationship. And we both valued the fact that we knew each other well enough to know what each other’s spouse’s name was, and when that person’s kids were starting school, or if they were moving into a new home.
I remember getting a call from a major chain’s national account representative years ago with whom I had worked for many years. He was calling to tell me that he had taken a job with the Philadelphia CVB and was moving. “I told you you’d be one of the first to know,” he said. “I’ll make sure you are taken care of!” I still smile when we meet at conference and events, and I still ask about his family, because I value and care about our relationship.
So what’s my point? It’s that you need to stand up for your needs as a buyer and take the responsibility to invest in your business’ future. Become the type of client that hoteliers and industry suppliers want to work with. Treat them as more than vendors. Treat them as partners.
Here’s why. If you don’t, you may be forced to do business in a way that you either don’t want or like. With the hotel trend of consolidating sales teams and having them sell remotely, the relationship part of this face-to-face business goes away. As does the trust that you had with someone that knows your group and company, your style and your needs. With that also goes the ease of getting things done, the fun in sharing a cup of coffee or a drink as you put together the contract details, and the ability to call when things are not so good to ask for assistance.
If this has happened to you and you thought you had no other option, think again. “Do not go quietly into that good night!” Make a call, write a letter, invest in your business relationships. It is OK to ask to be sold they way you like to be sold. And when you develop the type of relationships that I have enjoyed for oh, so many years, you’ll be able to make a difference for those who have made a difference for you.
I love this business … I mean, the people in this business. It’s why we enjoy what we do! Please, don’t ever forget it.
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