I can’t reach their event planner.
I can’t even get to a hold of a manager!
This article is specifically addressed to your sales team members. In particular, those individuals who are charged with the daunting task of continually filling in your meetings space for group events. In this era of electronic communication, where faceless automated RFPs prevail, the challenge of booking corporate groups has exploded. With the advent of the electronic RFP, the number of actual submissions has increased exponentially, making it incredibly difficult for a single property to standout.
How do sales team members differentiate your property from competitors? How do they express your property’s USP in any sort of targeted manner? And most importantly, how do they improve their conversion rate on business presentations?
Now, more than ever, there is a need to go beyond automation and rekindle one-to-one communications. But it’s not like you can just show up at someone’s office – the days of traveling salespersons are over. Instead, we are seeing the voice channel emerge as a viable intermediary between being lost in the noise of electronic RFPs and landing a personal meeting with a much-vaunted handshake at the end.
The business habits are a tad different nowadays, however. People hide behind their voice mails, so this should be the expectation over top of getting the person on the line right away. Here is a three-step approach you may want to consider:
Develop a 75-90 second presentation on your property. This is your ‘elevator pitch’ and it can’t be any longer or else you run into the cognitive drift problem. The appropriate Latin phrase to tape up on the wall is ‘Ex hoc momento pendet aeternitas’, roughly translating to ‘Eternity hangs on this one moment’. In other words, you only have one shot at this, so make it count!
Rehearse your presentation so that it sounds sincere and emotive. Next, use it on one of your team member’s voicemail. Then play it back over a speakerphone for other members of the sales team. Listen and accept their constructive criticism. Repeat this process until you are comfortable and the team gives you two thumbs up.
2. Phone execution
With the appropriate personalization for every execution, follow up every RFP with your short presentation. Even though you are leaving it on voicemail, the odds are that it will get heard by the recipient and quite possibly forwarded to a decision maker. You may not get a phone call back even though you left your return number. That’s okay, as the goal here is to get a successful return on your RFP and not necessarily to start a direct conversation or set up a one-on-one meeting.
You should not delegate this to someone who is a junior or who does not have direct sales responsibility. Why? Because once in a while, you hit the jackpot and the recipient actually picks up! I know, it does happen from time to time, and in such instances with a live client on the line you have to be ready to conduct business.
Leaving those trendy Latin business phrases aside for the time being, the ancient Greeks had two words for time that come in handy here: chronos and kairos. The former denotes all of time or at a lengthy period of time while the latter is considered to be only a moment of high importance. Often, a kairos equaled 1/40th of an hour or 90 seconds, which happened to be the shortest period of time that could be measured on a sundial.
So, consider your short speech on the phone to be a kairos – a defining moment that proves your point which is that your property is ideal for that meeting.
3. A handwritten note
Your property has welcome cards left in guestrooms. Steal some for your sales department’s use. Write a personal thank you (do not computer print!) for the opportunity to present. Add one key fact to make sure the note is personalized and expressive of your USP. Given that you will be ‘snail mailing’ this, make sure to get it out the door on the same day as you press ‘submit’ to the automated RFP.
While the electronic RFP has made it very easy for a planner to add an increasing number of properties to their potential venue list, the effects of each individual proposal for being diluted as a result. This three-step plan is but one way for you to continue to differentiate yourself. Give it a try!
About the author
Larry Mogelonsky is the founder of LMA Communications Inc. (www.lma.ca), an award-winning, full service communications agency focused on the hospitality industry (est. 1991). Larry is also the developer of Inn at a Glance hospitality software. As a recognized expert in marketing services, his experience encompasses Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts and Preferred Hotels & Resorts, as well as numerous independent properties throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Larry is a registered professional engineer, and received his MBA from McMaster University. He’s also a principal of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, an associate of G7 Hospitality and a member Laguna Strategic Advisors. His work includes three books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012) and “Llamas Rule” (2013) and “Hotel Llama” (2014). You can reach Larry at email@example.com to discuss any hospitality business challenges or to review speaking engagements.
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