Ah the coveted meeting planner. In the meetings and events industry a meeting planner is a popular person. After all they represent a lot of business to a supplier. An event supplier’s goal is to get his or her name, and their business, in front of meeting planners. But I’m often amazed at how some of these event suppliers go about the sales process. Many suppliers feel that once they obtain the contact information of a group, that they’ll simply reach out, via cold call, social media or email, and voilà: an RFP request will sure to follow.
From a meeting planners point of view that approach is a total turnoff.
What many suppliers fail to do is to put themselves in the shoes of those meeting planners that they are trying to reach. Quite often when suppliers become aware of a potential group it’s at the early stages of planning the event. And it’s at that stage that a meeting planner is looking at the big picture. CVB’s and hotels are, most likely, who the meeting planner wants to hear from at this stage. After that initial planning stage is when planners will start to drill down the remaining components of their meeting or event.
How many times have you connected with people via one of your social media accounts and then, the next thing you know, you’re getting what’s obviously a form letter listing their services that they provide and to consider them when planning an event. And I don’t plan events, I execute them. For me, that type of cold call approach tells me that the person didn’t even bother to find out what it is that I do.
Okay enough of me ranting, time to talk about the best ways to approach meeting planners.
Tips That Will Get Your Name in Front of Meeting Planners
Join Associations. Join some industry associations, plain and simple. If you’re in the business of being a supplier to the meetings and events industry then you need to get to know the players. Join associations like PCMA or MPI and you will get to know the decision-makers. And please do not introduce yourself with a sales pitch when you first meet someone at a networking event. Rather, network and be genuine with the person. After all you’re in the same industry, I’m sure that there are plenty of topics to talk about.
Join Your Local CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau). A CVB is often the starting point for a meeting planner. So if you’re serious about being a key player in the industry, then become a member of your local CVB. And then participate in functions, FAMs, etc. Become part of the industry.
Hotel Sales and Conference Services. Like a CVB, hotel sales staff are among the first to be contacted by meeting planners. And quite often that’s how meeting planners find their suppliers. If you expect to be referred it’s important that the person referring you has trust in your ability. Again developing that relationship will take time, but it is a worthwhile investment.
Like pretty much everything in life, the best things take time. Event suppliers would get much further ahead if they would simply take the time to nurture relationships with meeting planners. Get to know the players in the industry. After all, you’re in this for the long haul.