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Buddy2Buddy Challenge: Gaining Planners' Trust

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: May 21, 2013
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Imagine you’re part of a softball team and have been asked to order team T-shirts.

What do you do?

A. Take your search online.
B. Consult your network for suppliers.
C. Get input from you team.
D. All of the above.

If you chose D, you’re in good company.

In this hypothetical exercise with the “Buddy2Buddy Challenge,” our DMO sales professionals came up with an array of activities in order to engage different partners and create a compelling product, all while sticking to a budget and getting T-shirts for their teams.

This simple example gives a glimpse into how many meeting professionals carry out their business decisions today, and opens our eyes to different opportunities to engage with them.

The fact of the matter is, meeting planners can access 20 times more information about you and your competitors today than they could five years ago.

As a result:

  • 70% of complex buying decisions are made before they are willing to talk to you.
  • They engage decision makers and influencers from at least five different internal departments.
  • They no longer follow a predictable, straightforward buying process.

We as DMO sales professionals have to realize that the greatest opportunities are not in “buying, begging, or bugging” for business, but rather in truly understanding our customer in order to reach them early and hold their attention over time.

Learn about their network.

A meeting planner doesn’t act alone. With countless internal and external customers to satisfy, a meeting planner must balance everyone’s opinions and make decisions in the interest of their organization, sponsors, and attendees.

Moreover, they take stock in the wisdom of their peers and trusted advisors – including their third party or GSO contacts. The more positive relationships you have with different parties, the better off you’ll be. This means being different things to different people and wearing many hats, but always with the purpose of being helpful and useful to everyone you interact with.

Learn about their buying journey.

Just because a meeting isn’t in your destination this year doesn’t mean you should stop talking to a planner about it. Be curious, and be helpful.

Understanding as much as you can about what a meeting planner is doing to put their event into execution in City A for 2013, what they’re in conversation about with City B for 2014, and why they selected City C for 2015 can all help you time and power your communication for a bid in 2016.

But, just like you would not want to send a distracting message to a friend who’s dealing with a personal crisis, you want to keep messages to your customer timely and relevant. Showing a sensitivity, understanding, and respect for their business will set a future working relationship on the right path.

Learn about their needs.

As you engage with different planners and their networks throughout their buying journey, you will begin to surface both immediate needs and long-term goals.

Address the immediate needs and offer honest advice and information to help them along. Take note of the long-term goals to address further down the road, as looking beyond the usual dates, rates, and space, it’s critical to understand what success looks like for the meeting planner, and also what challenges have gotten in the way in the past.

Ultimately, it will be your job to align a group's needs with the solutions that your destination will provide, and guide the meeting planner and their network to make the best business decision. And this time, they will listen, because of your long-standing relationship as a trusted, knowledgeable advisor.

To take the first step in understanding your audience, download and complete this Buddy2Buddy qualification checklist about your customers.

The Buddy2Buddy Challenge is a six-session, preparation-to-practice exercise that seven DMO sales professionals break past the boundaries of traditional salesmanship by engaging with their customers on a consistent and on-going basis to set up relationships for the long term.

For more information on the Buddy2Buddy Challenge, contact Joy Lin at jlin@destinationmarketing.org.