“A planner calls with an emergency, needing information ‘right now.’ I work hard to reply and I never hear back.”
Shawna says: Think about whether you really need that proposal in 24 hours. Are you really going to review it tomorrow? Or has this simply become a habit because a deadline of tomorrow is just as good as next week, and you’ll be able to check that task off you ‘to do’ list? To suppliers, those 24-hour deadlines are a telltale sign that a planner is not seriously considering them, because it implies that this is just a first pass and most of the responses will be eliminated anyway. It also gets interpreted by suppliers that the planner lacks organizational skills, or they would have allowed more lead time.
“I respond to your RFP within the deadline you’ve given, but you do not respond to e-mails or phone calls when I try to follow up.”
Shawna says: Planners “go dark” all the time. It frustrates the entire population of suppliers. You may think that it doesn’t matter if you ignore the suppliers you’re not going to select—but it does. You may need that supplier someday—the one you put through the rigmarole and then ignored.
“Planners want specialized, non-cookie-cutter proposals, but their RFPs are anything but.”
Shawna says: Even if you don’t have the time to do thorough preliminary research on multiple destinations and hotels before submitting an RFP, you should commit to doing as much as you can to thoughtfully narrow down the list of prospects to a reasonable number.
“Why do third-party planners refuse to disclose who the client is? It could help us better understand the program, convince our higher-ups to give certain concessions, and fight harder for the business if it’s a desired industry or demographic. If we understand who the client is, we can better anticipate their spending and better assess the total group value to the hotel.”
Shawna says: There is always the thought in the back of planners’ minds that unethical suppliers might try to go directly to the clients and cut them out. I believe that most suppliers are not out to take advantage—the competition is too stiff for that nowadays. In order for them to produce the most competitive package aligned with the group’s needs, they need to know as much as possible about those needs up front.
“I get frustrated with planners not prioritizing their concessions and saying they need all of them or it’s a deal-breaker. The market has changed.”
Shawna says: When the economy took a nosedive in the United States in 2008, there was a power shift in our industry and the pendulum swung to the planner side, giving buyers the lion’s share of power. Suppliers were desperate for business and planners found that nearly every concession was theirs for the asking.
Today, it’s no longer a buyer’s market, yet many planners are unaware and still behaving as if it were and being demanding. Planners must realize that, depending on the venue and the city, suppliers don’t have to play ball to win the business like they did a couple of years ago.
“Planners who are panicky, short-tempered, and high-maintenance. Staying calm goes a long way.”
Shawna says: Planners are control freaks by nature (I speak from personal experience). To be painfully honest, I’m one of those people who always think they’re right, especially as a veteran planner with more than 20 years under my belt. What we all need to realize, though, is that suppliers see more meetings and events in a year than most of us will see in our entire career. So in the end, who has more meeting experience?
“You are cancelling our appointment after I have flown halfway around the word to meet you—spending my time and money—and you tell me today you are too busy to meet me. ...Really?”
Shawna says: It’s amazing in our industry, with our understanding of the repercussions of this, that planners do this on a regular basis. Since I have interviewed so many suppliers for this book, I’ve really tried to be more respectful. If I RSVP, I have committed to being there.
“Changing everything they want at the last minute and not giving us enough time to make those changes—than blaming us for falling short.”
Shawna says: In planners’ defense, many times we don’t have control over everything, and others cause us to miss deadlines. More often, though, I believe it’s fully within a planner’s control; they’re either overwhelmed or have bigger fish to fry at the moment.
When a planner misses a deadline for a food and beverage order, for example, you can bet there’s a pretty angry chef and catering director behind the scenes, scrambling to make a late order (and possibly paying rush or late fees themselves) for the quantities of food they couldn’t determine. Then there’s the coordination of all the staff people to set up and serve the group. That applies to DMCs, AV companies,
and other kinds of suppliers. It’s up to the planners, the ones caught in the middle between bosses/clients and suppliers, to explain the repercussions of not meeting those deadlines and the poor results (and fees) that might result, and, in turn, to help their suppliers achieve better results.