Nailing MICE Sales Missions – Six Insights from a Top Planner
January 4, 2019
We have all been there before – planning a sales mission can be time-consuming and stressful. We recently interviewed an Association meeting professional to get insights on the best practices for setting up sales appointments, conducting the meeting and effectively following up.
Leslie Zeck is the director of meetings at the International & American Associations for Dental Research. Her career planning meetings and conventions has spanned more than 25 years, starting with planning presidential inaugural events and Congressional events on Capitol Hill. Leslie has a degree in international relations and can speak multiple languages, giving her the great privilege of planning international meetings around the globe.
Here is what Leslie has to say about nailing a MICE sales mission.
Question 1: What should suppliers consider when they reach out for a meeting request? And, ideally, how far in advance should suppliers reach out to request a meeting?
Give as much advance notice as you can, but be flexible in case work priorities emerge. Suppliers need to do their research on each group or prospective client in advance. Most meeting information for associations is available online on the association website, so I highly recommend that cities get familiar with the association. Make note of when and where they host meetings before contacting a client directly.
There is nothing worse than getting a cold call from a sales representative who asks, “Are you the person responsible for planning meetings?” Use LinkedIn or the company or association website to see who is on the meetings team. If the association is a nonprofit, pharma or medical, it is probably not a good idea for a destination with only five-star hotels to contact that company. Likewise, make sure you understand if the association or company works with a third-party firm. This advance research can be easily provided by DCI.
Question 2: When would you say is the best time of year for suppliers to conduct sales meetings?
It is important to be respectful of everyone’s time and meeting schedule. It is frustrating to receive a request for an appointment just before a major meeting when the whole office is super busy! The information is on our website. Just don’t make that call or even send an email a month out! If you are not sure or cannot find the information, Google it! One association may prefer to meet in January and another may prefer July.
Everyone has downtime at different times of the year, so to maximize a sales mission, I recommend that destinations and hotels combine sales calls and host a breakfast, luncheon or happy hour event to ensure people don’t take too much time out of the office for sales meetings. Also, especially in larger cities where industry events and meetings are ample, try to combine and time visits with those events. For example, invite a client to meet during or after a PCMA or MPI event already scheduled. Invite someone to sit at your table at a luncheon or for coffee or cocktails afterward. Remember, many people telework or work in offices with cubicles, so meeting in someone’s office is not always optimal. Meeting at a mutual location like a hotel or coffee shop works well for many planners.
Question 3: What elements influence whether or not you accept a meeting request?
It really is all about timing. If I am working on a meeting or have many other internal meetings, it will not work to meet for sales calls. Visiting a city just once a year probably won’t work. Visits should be spread out throughout the year to ensure all prospective clients have time to meet. But I do appreciate being able to combine meetings with suppliers when I’m already scheduled to go to an industry event. Also, many destinations take advantage of cultural events such as art exhibits, concerts, shows, or celebrity chefs that are from or feature their destination. These invitations are most welcome as they have added value and interest to many clients and help to highlight the destination.
Question 4: What information should suppliers discuss in a meeting to help you consider the destination or venue as a potential host?
First, allow the client to describe their membership, meeting and decision-making process. Then show a video or PowerPoint about the destination and provide a printed sales kit or USB with details. Many groups have multiple meetings, but we will only discuss the meetings that will work in a particular destination – not the entire portfolio of meetings. A 30-to-45-minute appointment is ideal.
Question 5: In your eyes, what makes a sales mission successful and what makes a sales meeting unsuccessful?
Advance research is key. And timely follow-up is critical. If we tell you that an RFP will be sent, then allow us to confirm that the city or destination will be considered. Do not push for a full list of potential destinations and timeline – we just don’t have time to share that information with all destinations.
Question 6: What are your thoughts on best practices for follow-up?
Follow up shortly after the meeting to thank the client. Then do so again, based on the timeline we provided. If the RFP is expected in a month, that timing is good. If it is two years, then appropriate follow-up should be obvious!
Want to share any additional insights on how to make the most out of your sales mission? Send us a tweet at @aboutdci