Government Groups: Hotel Industry Perspective

» Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

In some instances the Government Contact who is coming for the site visit or is making contact with the Sales Person is not the one who is making the final decision that their group will be using the accommodations and meeting space.  I have seen the final decision being made by the Contractor, the Meeting Planner and sometimes a small committee of people.  In one instance I showed a small group of three ladies around.  They were in town to see multiple properties.  Since they came to us first and our competition second we were not given an opportunity to negotiate.  I thought that this was really unfair.  Since our location is downtown, we charge for parking.  Our competition is a little bit outside of town and has a huge parking lot.  The three ladies saw this as a huge benefit.  Had I known that this was an issue I would have done what I could have to make the parking complimentary.  I did not have this opportunity and I felt at a slight disadvantage because we truly had no chance at earning this particular government groups business.  Although usually parking charges are not an issue for Government groups, this was an opportunity that passed us by because it was an important to the group.  It was a question that was brought up but not discussed in full detail.  I found out later that the contact for this group really wanted to stay with us but since there were a number of them making the decision that she was out voted.  I did everything I could after the fact to make sure that the contact had an opportunity to stay with us on a personal visit but as time passed by communication from her did as well.  I wanted at least the opportunity for the repeat business in case the hotel they chose in the first place did not work out.  I felt it was important to at least keep the relationship and to let her know that I did not take the decision personal.  I believe I will continue to pursue her in a casual sort of way such as sending a Christmas card or just dropping a note every now and then to say Hi.

Relationship building is very important when it comes to the Government market.  Every agency that we come in contact with is a potential piece of business and business for the hotel in the future.  There are times when one hotel is selected and it is not the right fit.  If the Government Agency comes to the area often then they will want a new hotel to bring their business to.  At our property we receive a multitude of Government inquiries each day.  Some we can take and some we cannot.  I feel it is important to look at each inquiry as a new opportunity not only for new business but for that one on one contact and chance to build a relationship.

Last Spring I drove to Washington DC to meet with a Government Client.  It was a group that has been utilizing our facilities for a number of years.  I was not trying to gain their business but strengthen it.  I took time out of my busy day to drive into the city, find their location and make a quick trip in just to introduce myself as a new Sales Manager.  I felt like the agency really appreciated what I had done.  The next time that they stayed with us I felt like I was seeing an old friend.  I had already gone out of my way to make personal contact and now I knew a little bit about what they do on a daily basis and now the tables were turned.  It was like we knew about each others homes.  It truly strengthened our relationship.

Other groups have called to make site visits and I have gone out of my way to go online to find out what they are all about before meeting with them.  This gives me a better understanding of who they are and what they do.  That way I can formalize a plan to ask the right questions and hopefully make an impression that no one else has.  It also gives me an opportunity to speak to them on their level and to add small talk if I need to.  It is all about building the relationship and forming some type of connection with the client.  This is something that will hopefully stick with them during the decision process.

So if I am meeting with someone who does not have full control of the decision process, hopefully they can pass on positive comments not only about our property but about the effort I put into knowing all about them.  I have learned much in the past year about the Government Market by trial and error, being hands on and by attending SGTP.  I look forward to becoming even more proficient in the next year and on.

Jennifer Millheim

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