How to sell outbound group meeting and incentive travel

 

Improving your group and incentive sales

 

Improving your group and incentive sales to the U.S. Meeting Planner and Incentive Houses is as simple as it is difficult.  We have been the liaison between international hotels, their sales teams, and the U.S. Planner for nearly one quarter of a century and understand the gap between cultures, expectations and deliverables that impede effective sales efforts to outbound group and incentive programs from the United States.

 

Most sales people are always in continuous touch with their accounts, but we ask why then do they lose the business?  How much business are you losing without even being aware of the reasons why?

 

Here are a few pointers that may help you and your international hotel or resort.

 

  1. Acknowledge receipt of all Request For Proposals [RFPs].

 

I can’t tell you how many times meeting planners tell me that they don’t know if they should even expect a response because the hotel they sent the RFP to never even acknowledges the receipt of their RFP.

 

It is very commonplace for hotels that CANNOT accommodate the group because of date availability, size of group, lack of meeting space or inadequate function space to simply not respond to the Planner at all.  Not even a “courtesy email” thanking the planner for thinking of them and advising them that they cannot accommodate their request.  Communication, courtesy & hospitality should always be part of the sales process even if the hotel/resort cannot accept the group.

 

2.    Late responses. 

 

Let us start by saying that while a great many hotels already respond to RFPs in a timely manner, many do not and the General Management is unaware of this occurrence.  While we understand that hotel and resort sales people are very busy traveling, in long meetings, taking care of customer requests as well as the needs of General Managers and other Executive Committee members,  they must understand that the U.S. meeting planner is pressed by a variety of other requirements, including time. A standard response is a maximum of 48 hours and of course after acknowledging the receipt of the planner’s proposal.

 

3.    Incomplete & Unformatted RFP’s. 

 

In many cases sending an incomplete response in many cases is even worse than not responding.  It takes Planners time to read the partial replies only to have to make further requests that more often than not, go unanswered.  If a Meeting Planner requests information about meeting space specs, banquet menus, and for the hotel to complete a specific RFP questionnaire, the least the Sales Manager MUST do is to provide the full and accurate information, fill in the questionnaire, and return it within the specified 48 hours!  Planners will not consider a hotel’s standard proposal formats if they have sent you a specific questionnaire and your hotel will not be presented to their client.  Many planners use specialty software that scans these FORM responses and sorts them for simple and quick presentation to their clients.  Sales personnel may think they are providing the Planners with at least some of the details needed, yet they are not.

 

4.    Language and customs.

 

While many international hotels have been hiring English-speaking sales managers, there remain many idiosyncrasies and literal translations from Spanish, Portuguese, French or other languages that simply do not make sense in English.  It is very important that each hotel have a native English-speaking professional read through their current proposal templates for accuracy and clarity so that Meeting Planners do not have to decipher the offer being presented, often requesting clarification.  Planners are not ignorant, they are just confused by unclear English templates and different customs in countries where they may not be as well-versed as in the US.

 

Since the downturn in the economy, the ability for companies to plan and budget for a meeting or conference is left to a late priority.  The decisions on the venue are based on a series of factors:

 

  • Pricing
  • Convenience for attendees  

 

5.    Room to negotiate.

 

It is a common misconception among international hotels that there is always room to negotiate.  Many times hotels start off quoting rates that are way higher than the client’s stated budget, and/or they do not provide most of the concessions/value added items requested by the planners. Later,  upon follow up with the planner, they find out their property has been ruled out  because of some of the above reasons, when it is already too late!  Please, if your proposal is your “best offer”, by all means go ahead and present it, but if you know that you have room to negotiate, please be forthright and extend what you can offer from the beginning…don’t wait until it is too late and your property has been already ruled out to react!

 

Make sure your proposals, contracts and documents explain succinctly what you can and cannot offer.  We recently had a client contract with a property, plan all meals, activities, work on BEO’s, and two days before group check in found out that the hotel DID NOT accept credit cards for master account payments, only payments via wire transfer or personal/company checks.  Can you imagine?  To say the least, this situation certainly put the meeting planner in a pickle!  All because within the contract, it never stated that ONLY wire transfers or checks were accepted and that credit cards were not.

 

This article was written by Michelle Anseeuw- MBA, CMP, CHSP, Vice President Global Sales, Valorem Group.

Automotive Market Highlights

 

Automotive Market Trends

 

This is an excerpt from a full report for a VTG client.  Some statements may be incomplete because of this.

 

Overall Market Highlights

 

Overall market growth is subtle, but provides visible signs of recovery.   Traditionally growth was detected by increases in consumer spending, housing and construction.  The new economy has turned those signs around and growth is being seen and maintained by the production side with manufacturing and business investments leading the way driving down unemployment numbers.  Retail, transportation and insurance grew for the 25th month in a row and if manufacturing continues along its growth curve, we should see an impact in consumer spending.  While employment has seen a ver slow increase, in Florida we have seen a decline with emphasis on South Florida with most decline.  Consumer confidence has however increased over the recent months.  In sum, the market is expanding which we needed to confirm prior to presenting this proposal.

 

Automotive Industry Highlights

 

Ford sales grew by 10% in December from a year earlier and Chrysler sales in December 2011 were 37% higher than in 2010.  The industry has seen a slowdown to sales of 10 million cars in 2010 down from 17 million in 2000 and 13 million in 2008.  With new Gen Z entering the drive markets however, industry CEOs predict an increase to 14 million in sales by 2014.

 

Car costs have increased, only being offset by very high incentives.  The industry appears to be training consumers to look for high incentives as part of their shopping process, reducing the effects of branding and drives traffic to dealers of consumers with no room in their shopping cycle for on site negotiation.  A specific price is requested and consumers do not move off that price.

 

Credit is also creating a barrier to sales. Standard consumer credit is low and its availability is reduced.  This means that even with line 5 approval there is little space left for the sale of Driveit.  According to the dealers, there is little room for even traditional added amenities such as GAP insurance.

 

According to Toyota of Hollywood and Kendall Toyota, the markets are tight and consumers arrive asking for the specials not interested in hearing about any added offers.

 

While there is no style of car that is linked to demand of Driveit units it does coincide the sale of the most popular vehicles such as the Camry.

 

Companies like Toyota are making continuous investments in new models such as the Prius,

 

About Consumers

 

According to the dealers, the average age for consumers who buy Driveit earn about $40,000 and are 40 years in age.

 

Traffic comes from the entire South Florida terrain based more on where the dealer ads are placed.  Kendall Toyota farms south into south Dade and Homestead and Toyota of Kendall farms in the entire South Florida terrain pulling a large percentage of their clients from Boca Raton.

 

While the demographic is different in each area, there was some similarities.  First, a good percentage of consumers are Spanish speaking,  If this follows Miami Dade statistics, 65% of consumers are Spanish speaking with 52% not having been born in this country.  secondly most are connected to the internet via their cell phones as smart phones have become an essential for even the poorest of customers.

 

For the first time in the automotive industry there are 5 generations that will be buying cars during between 2010 and 2015.

 

Estimates from Toyota are that 2.5 million new drivers from Gen. Z will be buying cars annually. Born between 1995 and 2000 there are 23 million Gen. Z generation targets.  Gen. Z grew up on iPods, text messaging, Facebook, smart phones and YouTube. They are coming of age publicly on the web, are true multi-taskers and have a no-holds-barred attitude about blogging and digital publishing.

 

They enjoy instant gratification are good at processing information that they will open doors we can only knock on today,

 

We will research to clarify the current positioning of GPS products and insights from target segments to build a marketing strategy for communications that will put a company on the “shopping list” for all target segments.

 

Data From OnStar Studies

 

According to a Forester Research study, 40% of consumers would pay more for emergency and roadside assistance services.

 

Willingness to pay diminished for all categories of in-vehicle technologies by 25% to 50% when consumers were asked to pay for the services separately instead of as part of the vehicle purchase price.

 

Women were 26% more likely to want in-car navigation systems than men, and they were also more interested in hands- free cell phone options.

 

The same survey revealed that while the affluent certainly purchased luxury vehicles, on balance they planned to buy more Fords (26%), Chevrolets (18%), and Toyotas (12%) than Mercedes-Benzes (7%), Lexuses (5%), and BMWs (4%) in the years to come.

 

Still, interest in vehicle tracking devices tended to be higher on a percentage basis among those who purchased more expensive cars, though not universally so. For example, of the 5% of affluent car owners who purchased a Lexus, approximately 75% were interested in paying more for a vehicle with GPS. In contrast, about 45% of Toyota, Chrysler, and Oldsmobile buyers said they would pay more for that option.

 

Want to know the solution to improving your strategic position for after market products?  Contact Victor Bao at vbao@valoremgroup.com.

 

About The Contributing Author:  Victor Bao is a seasoned marketing strategist with decades of experience in the automotive, hospitality, retail and consumer goods industries.  He has lived and consulted in several countries including U.S., Spain, France, England, Italy, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Guatemala, China and India.  He has also taught Marketing Strategy and Market Research for 12 years at Florida International University and the University of Miami.

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