Mandy Jennings, Executive Director venues of Excellence and owner of Paje consultancy Ltd, shares top tips for venues to bring their sales team on Par.
Imagine – every venue and conference centre in the country re-launching at the same time – what’s going to make you stand out from the crowd?
By the end of June we should see the lifting of all legal limits on social contact, allowing large meetings, gatherings and events to begin.
That’s just 14 weeks in which to plan, execute and begin to build your sales pipeline and business on the books to secure a successful launch of your conference and events venue.
We’ve asked our industry professionals and experts to tell us their key focus areas, actions and top tips to guarantee a buzzing sales office in the run up to doors opening and a restart that could send your sales soaring.
Leading the competition
Understanding the competition and how you can win business from them has never been more important. Who are your competitors, what’s changed and have they changed? How does your venue stack up now in comparison the competitors? How have your customer needs and priorities changed?
You will need to research and learn the answers to all these questions and more. We asked Judi Oliver, who has over 30 years’ experience in the industry, including setting up the central sales office for Sodexo prestigious events business. Judi explains that by doing this essential groundwork you can identify your new unique selling points in light of COVID and strengthen your competitive advantage. Ensuring customers feel safe and secure will be paramount.
Judi emphasises that market research will also help you identify post COVID and future trends to make sure your offering stays ahead of the competition and exceeds the customer’s expectations.
Creating hot sales leads
If you have a database of potential customers, you’re off to a good start, but you’ll need to decide and prioritise your best or ‘hottest’ leads first, so you’ll need a plan on how to do that. Remember many people’s roles will have changed, so making sure you verity your database will be step 1.
Next with be your lukewarm leads… ones you know have business but maybe you don’t have the best contacts so again this will need time and research…. you’ll need to flesh out your approach and help your sales team refresh their skills and knowledge to make sure they are top of their game when they are talking to customers.
And don’t forget the remainder of contacts, important to keep in touch as their needs may have completely changed… so targeting them through clever marketing campaigns and social media is essential.
Make sure you plan and set targets for your research and telesales days to meet your business objectives. Nichola Jenkinson, Senior Business Development Manager at Paje Consultancy suggests arranging a series of telesales days when your team are back in the business, set targets, make it motivational, competitive and of course enjoyable!
Warming up your agency partners
A whole new world has been delivered courtesy of Covid 19 – which means an opportunity to review, re-visit and re-charge your relationships, communications, and connections with your Agency partners. Karen Patten, Director of The Meetings & Events Team shares her advice on how to warm up your agency partners.
First things first – take a long hard look at your list of agencies. Consider, who is preferred and why – where do you get your best conversions, value of business, relationship, clients and what is the cost of doing business with them?
Secondly – get a sparkling, totally up to date list of businesses and contacts to work with. Starting with your newly rated preferred list you should qualify them all. Unfortunately, some businesses will no longer be operating, there may be a change of contacts, change of location. Be curious about your agents – a lot has happened the last 12 months, how has it affected them and their clients? What does the business landscape look like for them? What solutions and support can you offer them in THEIR future plans?
Thirdly – communications. Agents will be looking for very clear communications from you that can help them support their clients with advice and confidence to book their event. Consider how and how often you communicate with them.
Finally – consider. Are you and your venue easy to do business with? Are your processes, systems and relationships supporting a successful collaboration. If not – what can you change?
Marketing for business success
Customers will react in a different way ‘post lockdown’ and will be much more responsive to clear, well thought out, personalised communication – this may take us more time and money in the short term, but Christine Page an experienced marketing strategist, says the long-term benefits will be worth the effort. ”Review and refresh your marketing to ensure it reflects the new environment, your customer’s needs and your business aims. It’s important to revisit your marketing plan to ensure you are working with the right third-party partners, understanding what your sales team need and developing new avenues for business.
Use this time to properly evaluate your past spend and what has worked to bring visitors to your website, bookings to your business and given you a decent return on investment. Also, it’s important to strike up partnerships to take your relationship marketing to a new level.
You must learn new ways you can engage with your audience and make sure your message is on trend and on track. It’s essential to be looking at the short, medium and long term strategies and plans to launch your business, as well as power you through 2021 and beyond.”
Gaining customers through LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a great way to make business connections and find new leads but to do this you need to ensure your profile is doing the hard work for you, optimising your profile to make it searchable and filled with the right keywords and phrases. Verity Wilkie, owner of a social media marketing company says “it’s a personal shop window and just as we would choose our best outfit to attend a meeting we should make sure our profile is tip-top at all times!”
Then the most important aspect is that you’re putting amazing content out there, things people want to see and engage in and you need to engage with other people’s content and posts.
It’s one of the best research tools to find key contacts on your target list and also see what your competitors are doing… any salesperson who is eager to win new business should be spending time every time researching on LinkedIn, approaching new contacts with a professional and consultative approach.
So now you have to think about what you are going to put on social media that is so exciting and interesting that it will get people talking and involved with you.
Embracing technology to secure pipeline business
You need your maximum sales effort focused on the run up to reopening in order to hit the ground running. To do this you will need to sell whilst adhering to the current social distancing guidelines and that means that selling remotely.
Mia Butler, founder of Pistachio View video email platform believes it is essential to re-skill and adopt technology and video-selling in order to secure new business in the run up to re-opening. “You will need to move from being a successful face-to-face sales professional into a virtual sales role without losing your personality and charm.
As well as using video-selling in your approach, it’s vital you learn how to plan and manage a Zoom meeting and present your product virtually to ensure you create an impact through a lens that will build trust even though you have never met. Embrace technology if you want to be a top salesperson in the future!”
Winning account management
The power of strong account management plans cannot be overstated. After so many businesses have been shut or with minimal contact it’s essential to maximise your relationships with your existing clients and to grow business from them.
TRUST will be even more important than ever, act as your clients trusted advisor not just a salesperson. How can you help, guide and support your customers using your venues again… lead them by the hand and give them reassurance, listen to what’s important and put a plan together!
Think about how you are going to approach each account, plan for possible changes in contacts and how you can overcome that and form a clear strategy and actions for reintroducing your customers to your venue.
So in just 14 weeks there’s a lot to get done, and of course it all needs doing first, and now, and urgently! There is a lot to think about but with thoughtful planning, a clear strategy and a step-by-step guide to help you through, you could be on the road to re-opening your most well-prepared, sales driven, pro-active and effective sales office yet.
Ready 2 Return Sales & Marketing Course
To learn more about these areas and create your very own personalised, step by step reopening plan join us on our Ready2Return sales & marketing course.
The Paje Consultancy team of experts all have years of experience and have been through many tough markets so know exactly how to guide, mentor and coach you to create and implement a proactive sales and marketing action plan to re-launch your venue. Through seven fortnightly interactive sessions each run by a different industry expert, combined with 1-2-1 coaching support to ensure you meet your priorities and are able to access the advice you need.
We will get you Ready to Return and come out winning!