by Shawna Suckow, CMP
• Top 5 things suppliers do that bother planners
• How can suppliers impress and win business?
• Committing to do better
It seems that my article, Planners Behaving Badly in the last issue struck a nerve with planners. You know I’m all about telling it like it is, so it’s only fair to now share with you the top five things suppliers do that bother planners. Fair’s fair, right?
2. RFPs. The entire Request for Proposal process remains one of the biggest pet peeves for both planners and suppliers, but for
different reasons. In my last article, I covered supplier pet peeves around RFPs. For planners, what irks us is not being heard. We
spend time to prepare a thorough RFP, and then
a) never hear back from you,
b) hear back from you when you call us to ask questions already covered in the RFP, or
c) receive a proposal that doesn’t begin to respond in full to the RFP we actually submitted.
We hate those templated proposals that just go through the motions. My advice to suppliers is to respond in kind. If you receive a nicely formatted and detailed RFP, respond in kind. If you receive a flimsy RFP without a lot of information that looks like the planner just threw it together, respond in kind! The best thing you can do to stand out is to reiterate our top requests in your cover letter, to show us that we’ve been heard. For more on how to fix the RFP process, check out Broken Processes and www.rfpsmart.org.
3. Going Through the Motions. Whether it’s your site tours, your emails, or your proposals, planners don’t like to feel like a number to you. We can tell when you’re phoning it in, and many suppliers are doing that these days just due to sheer overload. You’re tapped to the extreme, buried in RFPs, I get it. When you have a planner come onsite though, consider that the holy grail, because site tours aren’t as prevalent as they once were. If we’re standing in your lobby, you’re a serious contender for the business. We just don’t take the time these days to tour many properties just for knowledge sake. While we’re right there in front of you, ask us the three top things we want to see on the tour. When you contact us, show a little personality - it’s more than okay these days to not be uber professional all the time. In your proposals, try not to follow the same tired template that your competitors follow (i.e. “thank you for the opportunity to earn your business. We are delighted to present…blah blah blah).
4. Mass eBlasts and Cold Calling. You know these don’t work on you as a consumer - do you answer cold calls anymore? Do you read salesy email blasts? No. Your prospects don’t either. Try a video eblast that shows your human side, or your team’s. Be playful. Be human. I’d actually pay attention to a salesperson who sent me a video of his team dressed in shamrock gear, wishing me a Happy St. Patrick’s Day from their newly renovated ballroom. That would be a heck of a lot more memorable than your spring newsletter or your eblast about your recent renovations, and isn’t that the point of marketing?
5. Feeling Like Meat. In Minnesota, we have a strange tradition called the Meat Raffle. It happens in bars all over the state. People buy raffle tickets for the chance to go home with fresh meat. It’s weird, and as a Minnesota transplant, I think it’s hilarious, but I digress. Planners always complain to me that they feel like a piece of meat in a shark tank when they attend industry events or tradeshows. Case in point: my supplier friend was dining next to a very prominent corporate planner, and they struck up a conversation, not about business.
Along came a competitor who sat down next to the planner, gave her a sales pitch for 10 minutes, handed over her business card, and left. The planner and my supplier friend had a great laugh about it. When my friend revealed who she worked for after forming the human connection, she ended up winning the business. Spring is a time of renewal, so go out there with a sense of humor, and know that it’s okay to humanize yourself these days to us. Also, remind us how unique we are, how important we are, and that you’ve heard us. It’ll go a long way once the market shifts back to a buyer’s market, and we all know it will someday.
Shawna Suckow, CMP, has been a planner for over 20 years. Today, she is the Founder & Chairwoman of SPIN, the 2,500-member Senior Planners Industry Network. Shawna works with planners to provide strategic networking and rethink audience engagement at their conferences. She also works with CVBs to help them market more effectively to today’s planners.
Honors include being named to the 2015 list of Top 100 Women Business & Tech Speakers, 2015 Top 25 Women in the Industry, Top 25 Most Influential in the Meetings Industry in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and Planners’ Favorite Speakers of 2014 and 2015.