Beyond the Tradeshow - Being Relevant (Part 4)

Beyond the Tradeshow - Being Relevant (Part 4)

In my last blog post, we began walking through the five main stages which design the process of successful selling to planners. Click here for a recap of the discussion on Stages 1 and 2. Below we move on to Stages 3 and 4. And then we'll discuss Stage 5 in the final post in the series.

Stage 3 - Listen

We all listen. However, some of us are ACTIVE listeners and some of us are PASSIVE listeners.

STORYTIME: A planner was conducting a site of a beautiful resort property for an upcoming incentive program—over breakfast with both the DOS and the NSM the planner stated "I see you offer yoga on Saturday mornings?" The DOS jumped right on the comment talking about the qualified local yoga instructor who provides the service and the location of where the yoga takes place with the calming beautiful views over the desert in the early morning sun. 

The NSM smiled and listened and when the conversation was about to come to a close and move onto another topic, the NSM asked the planner: "Your group seems to be fairly health-conscious do you think a morning yoga session would be something they are interested in? I am sure we can arrange something with the instructor to occur at the resort over your program dates." The planner thought it was a great idea and it was an idea she hadn’t really thought of before this conversation—she needed the sales person to listen to her and help her realize what she needed.

In both instances the two sales people listened to the planner, but the DOS was listening passively and the NSM was listening actively—listening with the intent of hearing what wasn't being said. The DOS passively continued to sell the property, but not to the planner's unique need. Many times planners have trouble seeing all the benefits of your product and how it could be used for their program. That is where you come in. That is where the collaboration grows.

Listen with the intent of seeing your property through the planner's eyes. Through the event's needs.

How would YOU plan THEIR meeting at YOUR property? With YOUR service, using YOUR software. You should know what you are selling better than anyone and by partnering with the planner, should be able to figure out how you can connect the two and reach success.

Use your knowledge of your product to their advantage and help them fit the program to the property. Provide the solutions to challenges you hear them mention (or what is not being mentioned).

At tradeshows and hosted-buyer programs you have the opportunity to listen to the planner. The key for both is to put the standard sales tools away and hear what they have to say. Listen to what they tell you about the event objectives, the demographics, the event history; and then sell the portions of your product that you think would matter. Not all aspects of your product fit everyone’s need. One size does not fit all. But, by listening you begin to understand.

Stage 4 - Understand

There are many different ways understanding comes into play in relation to partnering successfully with planners. Listening leads to the understanding. It is a natural progression—when you truly listen to someone you can begin to understand them and their needs.

You will quickly understand the event objectives and then relate it to how your product can help meet and achieve those objectives. Make sure, as discussed, that when you "sell" something of the product that it is relevant to who you are speaking with.

It is great that your hotel has new blue duvet cashmere bed covers and they are very beautiful—but UNDERSTAND I am not buying bedding (I’ll go to a department store for that), I am buying a venue that needs to meet the objectives of my business meeting.

Another part of understanding the planner is when you are physically at the tradeshow or hosted buyer program. Understand the planner is more than likely on information overload. By the time the planner gets to your booth space they could be walking zombies. Understand this when you are planning to engage them on the floor. Find out what THEY need!

Think through what you could do to help them. Allow the booth to become the opportunity to form a connection from which a relationship can grow through your engagement. Not just a platform from where you vend your product from.

Stay current on what planners want/need, what they struggle with as well as new industry trends. AV companies and design groups do really well with this and in a lot of instances help set those industry trends for the planners. Once you understand what planners are focused on approach your pitch to meet their current challenge or current want for their program—we are always looking for someone or something that can easily make our work better and easier.

Next month – the final stage. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Posted by Larissa J. Schultz, CMP, MHA

Larissa is a writer, author, and professional speaker in the hospitality industry. She is also an adjunct professor at Glendale Community College teaching in Hospitality and Tourism.

Follow Larissa on Twitter: @LarissaJSchultz
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Editors' Note: The views expressed by contributing bloggers are their own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Meetings Today or its parent company.

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