The One Practice That Will Earn a Meeting Planner’s Trust

Meeting Planner

Even with the best of intentions, some hotel sales managers unwittingly prioritize winning the sale before building trust with the meeting planner. By simply committing to this one practice, hotel sales managers can win the confidence of every meeting planner they meet:

Full Transparency

Shari Martinez, a FileMaker, Inc event manager, says the hotel sales practice of skewing the truth to get to a sale is what she dislikes most about the business. “Don’t say that 500 people fit in a ballroom when capacity is 450,” Martinez says. “Some sales managers will say, ‘Yes, we can do that,’ when they really can’t,” she explains. “I prefer the truth.”

She points to one property that will never win her trust, nor her company’s business. After going to contract for a FileMaker conference, the hotel’s group sales manager left out one critical piece of information: They were already guaranteeing those same dates and space to another group. The truth finally came out five months before Martinez’ event, when the hotel flew out a conference services manager to deliver the news and cancel.


“Had the hotel been upfront from the beginning, we could have figured it out together,” Martinez says. “Instead, they left me in a lurch because it was more lucrative. Now there is no relationship. I would never trust them.”

Sherryl Milnes was new to event planning when her boss at the California Highway Patrol started tasking her with organizing off-site meetings and employee training. As a new planner, she wasn’t aware of the cost her department would face by overestimating the room block. “I was surprised to receive an unexpected invoice after the event,” Milnes recalls. She quickly called the sales manager, who explained the attrition fees. “It was the first time she ever mentioned them. I wish she was more clear about the fees before we went to contract. I had to explain the extra amount to my boss and figure out how to pay it.”

Woo Clients With Unfiltered Honesty

What meeting planners want more than anything—even more than that perfect venue—is a partner they can rely on. Not spa treatments. Not lavish dinners. They want someone who will be upfront and candid. Want to truly succeed in group sales? Be that rare sales manager who is brave enough to tell it straight. Be the client’s trusted advisor who keeps them educated and informed.

Here’s what full transparency in hotel group sales looks like:

  1. Assist clients with making smarter decisions, instead of pushing them to meet room night goals.
  2. Put client relationships above everything.
  3. Look out for, and bring up, any issues that could potentially derail a planner’s event.
  4. Take the time to inform and educate instead of stretching the truth to appear agreeable and easy to work with.
  5. Help planners brainstorm ideas instead of simply wining, dining, and wowing.
  6. Give clients honest recommendations on how to best leverage the property and destination for a great group experience.
  7. State fees upfront and offer ways to keep costs to a minimum.
  8. Be candid about the hotel’s strengths and weaknesses, along with feasible solutions.

“I want to hear the good and the bad ahead of time,” Milnes says. “I would trust them more if they were upfront with me like that.”


About the Author
Kemp Gallineau is the CEO of Groups360, a hospitality company bringing transparency and simplicity to meetings transactions. Gallineau is the former CSO for Gaylord Entertainment, SVP & GM for three of the largest hotels in the United States.

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