Creating a great event necessitates ongoing communication and interaction between the sales department and the meeting planner that may continue well after an event has taken place. With companies restricting travel budgets and the number of destination meetings being reduced, it is more important than ever for both planners and salespeople to stay engaged with each other through personal interaction.
We have always encouraged our sales team not to lose sight of the humanistic aspect of sales; even with all the technological advancements in today's world, authenticity is essential. The most successful business relationships are built upon consideration, honesty, and old-fashioned face-to-face communication.
Here are some best practices for planners and salespeople to consider when forging relationships:
It doesn't have to be all business. During conversation, both parties should ask each other two or three questions that address their counterpart's interests and hobbies. Show your interest in the person, not just in the business deal you are trying to close.
Send handwritten notes. These should make up one-third to one-half of a salesperson's weekly outbound communication, as compared to sending e-mail exclusively. It's refreshing to know someone took the time to write a personal note. Meeting planners enjoy receiving personal notes, not just another direct-mail piece or form letter. They are also more likely to read hand-written notes. Planners should reciprocate—the more you communicate with a salesperson, the more likely it is that they will have an "aha" moment about your event.
The little things matter. Personalized gifts do not need to be over-the-top. A custom CD with songs by the planner's favorite artist is a perfect example. This shows the planner you're aware of their interests and that you cared enough to do something for them.
From the planner side, even small gestures that let salespeople know you appreciate all the hard work they, and the convention service staff, put into your meeting will make them feel more vested in the success of your event. It could be as small as a verbal thank you or an e-mail to their supervisor saying what a great job they're doing.
Keep the momentum going. If the salesperson's intent is really to build relationships, the friendship will last. You may not call or write weekly, but some outbound communication should take place every quarter. This can include simple e-mail messages or birthday or anniversary wishes, as long as there's a personal connection.
While some of these practices may seem old-fashioned, they create the close bond that is necessary to execute a flawless event.
Kathy Cattoor is the vice president of resort sales for all three on-site hotels at Universal Orlando.
Originally published July 1, 2009