100 Years of Advancing Destinations

A Theatrical Experience for Sales and Service

Author: Joy Lin
Posted: December 06, 2013
Blog Topics Covered:

This past year, the Society of Government Meeting Professionals (SGMP) Old Dominion Chapter has provided its member DMOs to present and educate meeting professionals about what they do. This month, Janet Wenger and her colleagues at the Chesapeake Convention and Visitors Bureau took this opportunity to create a truly memorable performance.

In this post, we explore the Chesapeake CVB's foray into "Service as Theatre" and why it actually makes for a successful sales performance.


"Service as Theatre" is a long-standing concept that compares the customer service experience to a stage production:

"The actors (service workers) work together to create a performance (service) for the audience (customers).

The setting (service environment) is where the performance unfolds. The frontstage relies on support from the backstage (administration and operations), away from the audience’s view, where planning of the service experience occurs."

As DMO sales professionals in a service industry, we are all actors. We take on a role when interacting with our customers, and that role is to sell our destinations. But what is the performance? More importantly, what makes a good performance? What kind of performance does our audience enjoy or appreciate?

Here are five important qualities of a good sales performance with examples from our friends at the Chesapeake CVB and their SGMP sketch:

1. Establishes understanding.

Instead of jumping directly into the excitement and conflict, a performance doesn't start with the actors. It starts with the audience, it orients them as to what is happening and builds engagement.

Example: Notice that the Chesapeake team didn't start by directly listing off all the great things that their destination provides meeting planners. They chose to engage meeting professionals in a story about 12 planners on the eve of their meetings in Chesapeake. Therefore, they establish a direct connection with their audience by defining the relationship in terms the customer first.

2. Identifies challenges.

Throughout the performance, actors and audience both share and experience the risks, challenges, and concerns that make the plot interesting.

Example: The Chesapeake CVB chose one particular challenge to showcase in their performance. All too common among their audience and meeting professionals like them, many book directly without the DMO only regret it later. In order to be relevant to the planner, it's important to ask what challenges your customer is faced with and incorporate that into your performance.

3. Provides a resolution.

In theatre, a conflict without a resolution makes for a tragedy. We clearly don't want that for our meeting planners, so in this case, a performance that leads to a happy ending makes for a happy audience.

Example: In the story, the Chesapeake CVB team steps into the meeting planners' moment of panic with a number of solutions like visitor services and attendance promotion. They go on to explain exactly how they are truly the best first point of contact due to their local expertise, in-market relationships, and comprehensive view of the destination. The crux of any successful sale truly lies in our ability to provide our customers with the recommendations and resources they need to be successful in our destinations.

4. Exhibits creativity.

A truly great performance is unlike anything the audience has ever seen before.

Example: I think it's safe to say that the Chesapeake CVB and their partners did an outstandinig job in showcasing their abilities in a fun and memorable way. Not only that, it's important to remember that being creative with our solutions (#3) to their problems is also the best way to keep our customers coming back to the DMO every time.

5. Delights.

Actors whose performances exceed expectations in surprising ways are the ones that develop a cult following.

Example: Delight is mix of pleasure and surprise, and the Cheasapeake team brought a lot of laughter and smiles to the SGMP planners who saw their performance. The truth is, once our customer relationship begins, everything we do afterward either adds value or takes away value. So, with every interaction -- every phone conversation, email, meeting, site inspection, etc. -- let's always add value. Let's always delight our audience.


Read the full poem by the Chesapeake CVB: The Night Before 12 Meetings.