Tip 7: Selling Your Event Space
There is the dream of everyone that owns or runs a meeting and events venue. It is a dream to look at your events diary and all of your spaces are booked morning, noon and night.
Not only is it booked but your revenue numbers are far beyond expectations. Moreover your operations team is ready and willing to ensure a seamless turnaround from one piece of business to the next. There’s nothing wrong with always keeping that world in mind and striving to achieve it. Just as airlines analysed the pit crews of formula one cars so that they could make their flight turnaround times as efficient as possible, we will share with you some ideas to help you get closer to your own utopia.
Whether you’re a large conference venue in the heart of London or a country manor with several small meeting rooms, there are some foundations that you will need before going out and getting clients to fill your space.
Firstly, know your competitor set and what they offer. You would be surprised how many conversations we have with prospective clients at Casa who believe their MICE comp set is only those venues within a small mile radius. In contrast to your corporate transient competitive set, your MICE comp set covers a much wider geographical area.
If you’re a country house in Buckinghamshire receiving an enquiry, the client’s search would more than likely cover all country houses in the whole of the Home Counties area, not just Bucks.
A venue in central London has competition throughout the whole city. However it could also include similar sized venues in Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. If you’re a large congress property, you may be competing against a venue in Paris or Barcelona. Ask your clients who you are up against when they ask to hold space. Build a picture of your competitors, particularly get to know their limitations.
Next up, make sure you have a demand calendar. Most people already work with some type of system that tries to maximise the peak dates. Ensure though that all of your team know why a booking may not be a good booking if it blocks out other bookings. We use a traffic light system so our teams know when they can be flexible and when they need to stick to their optimum numbers. Do the same with your pricing. As simple as it sounds, make sure everyone knows the dates and days of the week when you can discount and the dates you shouldn’t. You will know your space better than we do but if in doubt just look at historic data.
Have a clear pricing structure and make sure everyone in your team knows how they are worked out. You wouldn’t necessarily expect everyone to be able to price up a bespoke eight course tasting menu with pairing wines but certainly the DDR breakdown, minimum spend requirements for exclusive hire and the cost of specialised AV needs to be known by everyone selling.
Really know the space. It sounds a little too obvious to be stated here but we often find that the sellers and the operators can be
far apart on what the other thinks is do-able in any given space. Get your sales and reservations people to really know the lay- outs, limitations, best set-up, service considerations, distance from the kitchen etc before they start converting.
We wouldn’t recommend you be too precious on the type of business you want either. Especially post-Covid. Usual caveats about goodwill and reputation not withstanding. We hear time and again venue clients saying ‘We don’t really want that type of business’. Whether it’s funny handshake male only dinners, unusually themed weddings or ‘educational’ investment seminars.
Don’t let a long forgotten bad operational experience put you off particular types of business. Don’t think that your clients shouldn’t book through an agent and don’t believe all brides should ditch their wedding planners. Quote all business on its own merits including all cost of sale.
It goes without saying that you should always mitigate any risk to the business by making sure all indemnities and paperwork is clearly explained, signed and filed. Have standard terms and conditions ready to go and make sure everyone understands what these terms mean. Don’t sign off anything you’re not comfortable with on the premise that no-one really relies on them anyway. Consider also that if someone really insists that you sign off on their contract terms without amendment, this may undermine their validity. The law doesn’t like coercion.
In the coming weeks we will talk a little more about how to better sell and market your venue but let’s presume in the meantime that you’re already getting enquiries coming in. How best should we manage these? Firstly, make sure that everyone sells. It’s not just because we’re sales people that we value selling but we really believe that everyone should be selling. This doesn’t mean that your venue should turn into a hustling bazaar, rather that everyone should be aware of the commercial goals of the business. More importantly they should be encouraged to help achieve them.
Try to be imaginative and flexible with your space. Look at what can be done with your space rather than what can’t. A reception area can be turned into additional breakout space, a bedroom into a syndicate. Always keep in mind that if operationally it can be delivered, that means it is possible. It might be an added bit of work to transform the space, but it is chargeable. Not only this, it may well free up other spaces that can be sold to other clients, increasing revenue levels further.
Empower your reservations staff to engage with the client. Give them the support and assistance to build commercial relationships with the clients calling/emailing with enquiries. Get them to meet agents, wedding couples and corporate clients. The relationship your reservations team has with the client is just as important as the one your sales team has. Make sure that you encourage it.
Just because a reactive role typically waits for the phone to ring, it doesn’t mean they can’t pick up the phone and be proactive to secure a piece of business. Get everyone in the habit of asking the client ‘how do we get this business?’.
Manage your provisional bookings better. Time and again we see that a piece of business has been automatically released as the confirmation deadline has passed. Often no-one has informed the client or even bothered chasing it. Always go back to the client and ask if they want to confirm the booking or if they want to keep holding the space. Better still, ask them what you need to do to get them to confirm it. In the first instance, when holding the space, ask the client when they think they’ll be in a position to confirm the booking. Try to avoid pre-set dates and work with the client on their timelines. Be honest with them and tell them why you can or can’t keep a hold on space.
Let them know that if another credible enquiry comes in willing to confirm the same space, you may have to ask them for a decision.
Try to avoid offering 2nd options. Whilst we can all point to examples where they have confirmed, our experience tells us that clients really don’t like them. Clients will actively seek space that they know is theirs and theirs alone until they are in a position to confirm. It also adds another unnecessary layer of confusion to your diary management.
Better to ask two simple questions. 1) Inform the 2nd enquirer that you already have a booking in the space and ask them that if you freed up this space, would they confirm? And 2) Inform the first enquirer that you have a credible enquiry and ask them what you need to do to get them to confirm? This is where your reactive team become sales people. Trust us, these simple tweaks will increase your conversions and build better relationships with your clients. Your sales will increase as a result.