by Shawna Suckow, CMP
• Recognize extra effort
• Tips for success
• Speak up
I just experienced the best site visit to a hotel in all my 26 years in this industry. There were so many elements that combined to make it an experience I’ll never forget.
I was fortunate to have a speaking engagement to a group of incentive planners who were touring Buenos Aires, Argentina. The fortunate part was that I got to tag along on all their adventures! But I digress…
When we arrived at the Four Seasons in Buenos Aires, we were greeted by about 20 staff people who formed a path into the hotel and clapped like we were celebrities. That perked us all up after a long flight! We were escorted into their bar, where 20 assorted cocktails awaited us, all pre-made and beautiful. The mixologist greeted us and explained what was in them.
Next, we walked with our cocktails into the restaurant, where servers distributed empanadas while the chef greeted us and spoke casually about his journey to becoming a top chef in South America, with his restaurant voted among the best on the continent.
The tour ended in an ornate room where we enjoyed a beautiful dinner. A singer in a ball gown performed two songs for us while we dined, and ended the night with one last song on the staircase while staff people rained rose petals down on her.
Now, I know what you’re thinking…this was way above and beyond your average site visit, and no hotel could put forth this much time, effort, and money on every planner who came to tour. Obviously, this was a special situation, but there are takeaways for all of us, nevertheless.
Planner friends, I know you’ve seen your fair share of good, bad, and ugly site visits. In my opinion, a good site visit depends on you as much as them. As a younger planner, I rarely spoke up to ask for what I wanted from a visit, and I rarely, as a result, got what I needed out of it.
Here are some things you can do to ensure every site visit meets your needs:
1. Share as much information as possible about your group, its demographics, the meeting’s goals, and history.
2. Be sure and convey in advance the top three things you want to be sure to see during your visit. If the salesperson doesn’t listen, that’s a telling sign of things to come!
3. If a visit needs to meet specific needs, speak up. It’s that simple. Otherwise, the salesperson is prone to doing the tour on auto-pilot.
4. Planners typically love to see back-of-house. If this is important to you, it never hurts to ask if it’s possible. Depending on what the kitchen has going on that day, for example, it may or may not be a good idea.
5. If you can’t make it in person, consider a virtual site visit. It’s just what it sounds like – a live tour of the property via FaceTime, Skype, or Zoom. We’ve chosen several past host hotels for SPINCons annual conference without ever stepping foot in the property!
1. The hotel asks you in advance about the top three things you want to be sure to see during the visit. Most salespeople assume that list includes the spa, the suites, and the ballroom. You may not be interested in any of those, depending on the size and demographics of your group. A good salesperson won’t assume.
2. One planner spoke of a breakfast meeting at a hotel where she expected to dine with only the salesperson. Instead, she was greeted with four or five different people from the hotel, and during breakfast, each spoke for a minute or two about how they would work to make her meeting special. If your salesperson adds unexpected components like this to your visit, they’ve clearly gone the extra mile to impress you.
3. Venues who really want to go the extra mile will give you a unique gift, not just branded merchandise from their property. Gifts are always nice, but if the salesperson did research on you and, say, found out you have a dog, then gave you some organic dog treats for Fluffy, that’s impressive.
4. One planner friend told me that he experienced a site visit where actors (or unlucky hotel staff people!) were awaiting them inside several guest rooms. When they visited one guestroom, for example, they knocked, and the actor answered the door, much to the planner’s surprise! The actor walked them through the room, explaining how it was perfect for him as a business traveler. In the next room, another actor explained how their suite was perfect for her family. Now that’s a venue that really wanted his business!
I know that during today’s seller’s market, salespeople are inundated with work, and often have more business than they can handle. That means that they don’t really need to focus on successful site visits as much as they would during a buyer’s market. Nevertheless, when they do go the extra mile, be sure and take notice. It’s not easy, it’s not cheap, and it took extra time for them to coordinate for you. Be sure and give thanks to the team, and let them know it mattered. For bonus points, a nice shout-out on social media goes a long way.
Shawna Suckow, CMP, is the founder of SPIN: Senior Professionals Industry Network – the world’s largest association for hospitality planners and suppliers with 10+ years’ experience (www.spinplanners.com). Today, she speaks all over the world, helping planners orchestrate more engaging meetings, and helping hospitality suppliers understand how to market and sell more effectively to tough buyers.
Share your favorite site visit experience with us in the comments below, or email Charmaine at Editor@MidwestMeetings.com.