Thursday, January 15, 2009

Group Sales Cost Cutting Best Practices – The Overview

Sales is the engine that drives revenue and companies are always looking for ways to make that engine more efficient. Group selling offers the huge advantage of being able to address multiple customers through one presentation and still be in a face-to-face situation to sell each one individually. Reducing group selling costs and becoming more efficient helps your company's bottom line both from the revenue and the cost aspect. The group selling situation can be defined as anything from a luncheon or a face-to-face meeting with several key customers to a major exhibit at a convention. The principles are similar, only the execution changes.

The Maver Management Group has been working with Janice Bays, President of Meeting Management Associates, Inc for over 20 years. We have benefited from her expertise, as have all of her clients. Janice has worked with Fortune 500 clients, down through startups with very limited budgets. Janice has contributed her thoughts to this article and she knows her stuff. If your company has a full meeting/convention planning staff, these tips may be a good refresher. For those companies who do not have the staff, these tips can cut your costs. In either case, after you read this series of articles, feel free to contact Janice and learn what her company can do for you to make your group selling situations more efficient and effective.

Strategies That Save Dollars
1. The Plan - As in all cost cutting and program effectiveness, it starts with the plan – the right plan. How is the company’s overall business plan best executed in the group selling situation? Having the right plan enables you to understand up front what is required to be successful and what can be eliminated. This is the essence of best practice cost cutting. We have published a number of other articles on this blog for help in creating the right plan.

2. The Target Audience - Who is the target audience and exactly what do you need to motivate them to take the desired action? If you are looking at national conventions, you could define your audience as all the convention attendees. Don’t! Look more closely and identify the high potential people or companies within the group and find the means to target them.

3. The Message - This flows from the company’s overall strategic plan and positioning. That will keep the message consistent and will avoid costly graphics changes. In the group setting it has to be concise and crisp and is part of the overall “atmosphere” that you are creating. Research show that it takes on average 7 selling presentations to make a sale. Your audience will not tire of your graphics, display or message, since they are not exposed to it continuously. Sales personnel may tire of the message and if so rotate the sales personnel so they don’t wear out.

Outsourcing – Expertise and Cost Savings
1. To use or not to use - Both large and small companies use outsourcing for group selling as a means to increase effectiveness and keep costs under control. Meeting Management Associates (MMA) is one of the full service planning and meeting/convention management companies. They help translate the overall business strategy into the group selling strategies and then handle the management of all aspects of the meeting or convention. There are other suppliers who handle specific elements of the process and will need to be co-ordinated.

2. Single source or bid - Companies like MMA provide the best results when used as a single source supplier. It enables them to be completely open and in lockstep with your needs, as an extension of your company. Of course, they bid out services for hotel and travel and are able to negotiate high value and lower cost alternatives. Cost is definitely an issue, but not the only factor to be considered. You want the best value and what meets your goals and objectives rather than the cheapest.

3. Communication - An important element in all of this is good clear communication. Time must be spent with your outsourcing partners so that they understand your objectives and the role that they play in achieving them. Then their expertise can come into play more fully. Implement a check list that causes you and your outsource partner to communicate on a regular basis.

Contract Cost Cutters
1. Your value - Develop long-term relationships with properties and chains you use often. Negotiate volume discounts. Prepare a detailed request for proposal. Communicate the value of your meeting.
2. Negotiation - You may feel that the hotel holds all the power, but that is not true. Everything is negotiable. Negotiate sliding-scale rates with the hotel. Negotiate no deposit - or at least that the deposit will be placed in an interest-bearing account. Ask for everything and anything that you want right up front, such as 1 per 40 rather 1 per 50 for comp rooms or a number of upgraded rooms at the negotiated rate for your VIPs.
3. Timing - Work with hotels to fill their "hot dates," or meeting space "holes." Though the low season seems to be getting shorter, try to schedule meetings in the least busy times of the year for that specific area. Be flexible with your arrivals and departures.
4. Cancellation - Make sure the contract's cancellation clause is reciprocal. What if the hotel is undergoing major renovations during your event? Or if there is a change in management?
5. Signing - The biggest risk to your company can be in the contract signing. Never sign a contract unless you agree with it in its entirety. Cross out or edit clauses with which you do not agree, initial them, and get the supplier to initial his or her agreement. Pay attention to cutoff dates and attrition clauses. Keep in regular contact with suppliers even after the contract is signed. Things and events can change the meeting opportunity drastically.

These tips provide an overview of some cost cutting ideas for group selling situations. There is a follow up article that details more specifics. It can help you and your company achieve better results and cut your costs.

Please feel free to contact Janice Bays or me if you have questions.



John Maver
Maver Management Group
(925) 648-7561
Maver Management

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