HSMAI Rising Sales Leader Council – Sales Tools Work Group
In 2018, we outlined the challenges that hotel professionals and meeting planners face as they aim to work together in an efficient and mutually beneficial way. Much has changed since then, due to the transformation that COVID-19 has brought upon our industry, but one thing has remained the same: To successfully bring people together through events and unique experiences, hotel and meeting professionals must continue to collaborate in a unified and transparent manner. Here are eight ways to maximize the relationship with your key partners in planning.
1. Be upfront from the start. Be honest with how long offers will be valid and space will be held. Review dates for definite bookings with the option to reduce blocks months in advance to help avoid attrition. Also, consider adding a COVID-19 conditions pricing clause to your contracts or using a creative cancellation scale.
2. Conduct post-contract pulse checks with the client on confidence of pick up and/or odds of cancellation. A quick call followed up by an email would be best. Get in front of any changes that may be taking place with the group, so the hotel can prepare and yield revenue properly.
3. Keep planners informed of all changes within your sales office or organization. Keeping them informed of any structural changes builds the relationship and trust with the client and will ensure we are getting important information regarding their group as soon as possible.
4. Ensure constant flexibility on both sides. Planners should be flexible with dates and available space, as we will hopefully see an influx of meetings all at once. The planning process is less cut and dry as previous years. Pricing will vary as availability varies and different dates than usual may be used for groups/events. It also makes budgeting on both ends tricky and a constant moving target.
5. Reach out to 2019 loyal clients to see if they would like their desired dates held for 2023. Eventually, the pandemic will end, and we will want these clients’ continued loyalty. With dates and availability being such a mixed bag, the pandemic leaves an opening for past loyal clients to explore other options (by choice or by lack of availability.) If we can get in front of this, it will better our chances of keeping these clients as we return to post-pandemic times.
6. Communicate how food stations and sanitation are different amid the pandemic, based upon hotel standards and realistic expectations (food shortages, etc.), as the additional cost of food and sanitation products could come with a fee. Also, monthly food menus should be in accordance with food pricing. A disclaimer such as, “This is our current menu, but options and pricing could change” could help prevent any surprises. Suggesting external dinner referrals could also help provide more options.
7. Distribute welcome letters to groups to provide realistic expectations and amenities with attendees. Highlight any amenity changes that are different from the norm, including hotel COVID policies such as masking and local business information (restaurants that are open, whether they are dine-in/takeout only, etc.).
8. Conduct regular funnel scrubbing internally. Create a standard for the number of touch points with clients for prospects and tentatives prior to updating the booking status and stick to the dates and timeline that were provided in the initial proposal. Keep the pipeline as up to date as possible to ensure we are optimizing potential business and protecting the space.