Partner Suppliers are an invaluable part of the team required to plan and execute successful meetings and events. Here are a few recommendations on how to deal with all planners and especially the occasional “temperamental” one.
1. Do Your Homework
Meeting planners have less time and more work these days. Do your homework and know the goals of the planner. Planners are consistently under pressure to turn around information to their clients as quickly as possible. Have objectives clearly lined out before conference calls? E-mailing back and forth with one-off questions throughout the day can really cause an “In-box” traffic jam. Save all questions for a comprehensive e-mail once or twice daily.
2. Pick-up Your Phone
We all have clients that expect an answer every time the phone rings. It’s the nature of the business. The same expectation is true for our partner suppliers. There are always exceptions, but if we resort to the phone for an unscheduled call, there is probably a reason and it usually involves getting an answer back to a client as soon as possible.
3. Respond to Your Emails Quickly
I can’t think of anyone in this business who isn’t glued to their smartphone. That said, we know everyone occasionally looks at their messages in staff meetings, while traveling, or wherever they may be when not in the office (hopefully not while driving). If you know the communication is about a specific question you can’t answer, let them know. Also, be sure to let them know when you may have the answer so they can communicate that to their clients. Simply avoiding a call or email with no response is unacceptable.
4. Listen Carefully
Planners are pulled in many different directions and repeating requests multiple times to the same vendor can prove frustrating. If you don’t understand the request, ask for clarification before ending the conversation. Confusion creates delays in communication and may hold up the progress of additional suppliers.
5. Don’t Leave out Important Details
It’s very important to understand that Planners live online and Google everything. Many times they are looking for a confirmation of what they already know (or think they know). Be honest about your venue or service, as well as your pricing. You never want to get in a combative relationship with your planner as it may result in the loss of business. If you disagree with them or if they have been misinformed, tell them and provide the facts.
6. Include ALL Fees in Your Proposals
Meeting planners hate to be over budget. When submitting a proposal, don’t lowball your numbers to secure the business. Many times planners are looking at three or more bids so when they see a supplier has left out a critical line item, it gives the perception you aren’t thinking through their needs or plan on making it up somewhere else in the budget during billing. Be accurate to the scope provided and complete your financials. Sticker shock will definitely end a relationship.
You are the experts in your fields. Whether you are with a hotel, audiovisual group, staffing, printing, food, beverage, etc., provide consultation to the planners and be prepared to answer questions. Provide examples of real-life experiences that support your decisions and recommendations.
8. Never Take Anything Personally
Planners are inherently high-strung and stressed out. Know their hot buttons and how to avoid them. Asking them the best way to communicate with them from the beginning of the planning process is always best. If they do have that momentary lapse in professionalism, cut them some slack. All clients are different and finding an appropriate outlet to have a moment can be hard to do when you are sleep-deprived and on your feet for 16 hours.
Meeting planning may not be brain surgery, but it is critical attention to detail, effective communication, and unparalleled customer service for our clients, and it takes both the Planner and Supplier to make that happen.