Sales and catering coordinator tips

Hotel Inspection 101: 21 Ways to Win Over Planners and Close More Group Deals

Every event booking at your hotel hinges on a successful hotel inspection. It’s a make-or-break moment where hotel management and event planners meet for the first time, and it’s becoming increasingly important to buyers.

That’s why the hotel inspection represents a unique opportunity to kick-off a lasting relationship between a planner and your property. Hotels need to adapt to the changing demands of their buyers, and there’s plenty of room to improve the site visit experience.

Here’s how you can convert more clients during hotel inspections.

Part 1: Communicate during the hotel inspection to win more event deals

Communication prior to a hotel site inspection is not about making planners see your venue as the Taj Mahal. It’s about setting expectations and being transparent about the strengths (and shortcomings) of your property.

1. Create a questionnaire.

Before they arrive for the site inspection, ask planners for specific information about their events. Then, make it as easy as possible to share that information across your team. Ask for details like the type of event, expected number of attendees, and estimated budget. If you can’t offer what’s being asked ” or come up with a creative solution ” it might be best to skip the site visit all together.

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2. Share accurate floor plans

Planners have dozens of ideas for what their room layouts could look like, long before they decide on a venue. When hotels provide floor plans that are 100% to scale, planners will naturally start thinking about how their event will fit. Accurate floor plans are vital. If a planner starts diagramming a room set in a space that isn’t to scale, you’re setting them up for disappointment when they arrive to find that their designs just won’t work.

Related: How to create accurate 3D diagrams in minutes.

3. Ask for their event diagram

Some clients may have their heart set on a room-set layout that’s worked at a past event. Before their site visit, ask for diagrams of previous events. Then, when they arrive, present a floor plan that matches their needs to assure planners that you can accommodate their go-to layouts.

4. Get the details

Knowing the specifics of the event can be a huge key to a successful site visit and sale. But not all hotel sales managers make the effort to ask the right questions. Here’s just a sample of what you can ask:

  • What kind of event is being held, and what are its goals?
  • Will you need a wheelchair-accessible floor plan?
  • Is the event open to children?

Ask the right questions and you can expertly customize the hotel site inspection.

5. Get a program agenda

At this stage, some planners will have the event agenda locked down. The more your team knows about the flow of the event, the better they can showcase the right things. Ask for the program agenda and use it to help inform the site visit agenda.

6. Be flexible with the visit

Give your potential clients options. Offer multiple dates and meeting times for the site visit. Ask if the client prefers to see the space empty, or while another event taking place. These questions show meeting planners that you’re willing to adapt to their needs.

7. Give yourself enough time

Did the planner give you enough lead time to prepare for the hotel visit? Start the conversation as early as possible. If you don’t have time to prepare your team and show the space in its best condition, you’re probably not ready to conduct a site visit.

8. Be upfront about hidden costs or availability

If certain spaces aren’t available on the planner’s ideal date, let them know ahead of time. This is about aligning priorities with planners, and not shoe-horning events into a space that isn’t ideal.

9. Address if you can meet their F&B needs

If you can’t satisfy the specific food requirements for an event, don’t try to work around the issue. Don’t make promises that you won’t be able to fulfill.

10. Share your A/V capabilities

If you have A/V equipment on site, let planners know what’s available. if not, remind clients to bring in their A/V providers on the site visit. A/V experts are better at spotting problem points and opportunities for an exciting A/V experience.

11. Train your onsite team

In a recent Social Tables survey, meeting planners said that they sometimes deal with unknowledgeable staff on site. Planners are tired of hearing Let me get back to you on that. Be sure that your entire hotel staff knows the ins and outs of your event space.

golf event planning checklist

Part 2: Customize the hotel site inspection to get more event business

The fewer meetings a planner hosts each year, the more they care about cost. For planners who tackle more events, the specifics of a hotel’s offer matters more. Because all planners have different priorities, hotels need to offer more personalized site inspections.

So how do properties typically customize site visits? In a recent study, Social Tables asked 350 hospitality professionals to share their strategies. Here are the results:

And here’s how you can apply those ideas to your own hotel inspections.

12. No cookie-cutter agendas

Every event is different ” so every site visit should be different. Create an agenda that’s been tailored to the planner’s needs. For example, if the client is most interested in your F&B offerings, start by showing dinner options.?

13. Pre-set the room

Most planners don’t expect the hotel to pre-set a room to their specifications. If you have the event diagram ” or if you can make guesses based on the type of event ” set up the room with their ideal layout and surprise them when they arrive.

14. Make a 3-D diagram of the space

If you can’t physically change the space, how can you show planners what the event might look like? These days, you can build 3-D diagrams with no graphics expertise required. Tools like SketchUp and Social Tables make building 3-D walk-throughs as easy as using Facebook.

15. Create a walk-through that mirrors the event

Start at the breakfast buffet, then stop by the charging stations on the way to the show floor. If this is what attendees will experience, make sure the event planner experiences it, too. Deliver site visits that most closely resemble the “wow” of the event itself.

16. Discuss past successes

Ask planners what’s made their events successful before. That way, you can use the site visit as an opportunity to show them how your space can achieve the same success. Conversely, have them share their mistakes with you. Show them that they won’t happen again at your venue.

17. Make room for wow moments

Planners want to create a memorable experience with wow factor. Help them bring that to life. This can be achieved at any budget. It could be as simple as a beverage at the end of a long site visit, or as glamorous as a helicopter ride back to the airport. Leverage the strengths of your venue to deliver a special moment as part of your hotel inspection.

Part 3: Close the group business during the hotel inspection

So at the end of the day, how can a property get the deal done on site? The data shows that about 50% the time, a planner that walks outside your doors, won’t be coming back. But there are a few things properties can do to help close planners during the hotel site inspection

18. Know the competition

There’s no problem with openly asking planners about other venues they’re looking at. Getting a sense for the competition only empowers your team to better communicate what sets your venue apart.

19. One client, one contact

For planners at a hotel site inspection, there’s often a disconnect between the people they talk to before the visit and the people they meet during the visit. Having one contact from start to finish can make a huge difference in closing the deal.

Think of site visits like a blind date. Imagine if you were texting with one person, only to find that you’re meeting up with someone completely different. Oh, and to make things worse, the Food & Beverage part of the date is with a third person entirely.

Empower each individual at your property with the knowledge they need to own the relationship, end-to-end.

20. Make sure the decision-maker is on-site

This is the single most important request a hotel can make of a prospect. Properties can lose deals because they’re talking to the wrong person, or never had the opportunity to reach decision-makers in the first place. Your sales team needs to make sure that they’re in touch with the contract signer as early as possible.

Be proactive about asking planners about their decision-making process. That way you can ensure that you’re inviting all the right contacts to the hotel site inspection.

21. Do the deal on property

Ideally, you can edit proposals and be flexible during the hotel site inspection. That way, you can review it with the planner before they leave, and get them to sign on the dotted line. The site visit is the best place to address your client’s concerns ” but if that communication isn’t on paper, you won’t be able to get a signature.

Try to close the deal before the client leaves your venue. Work with your team to customize and edit contracts during the course of the site visit. Designate a meeting area after the site visit to get the deal closed.

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Learn More about Winning Group Business during the Site Visit:

One definitive way to close more deals is to learn as much as possible about your clients. Click here to download our recent report, which examines exactly how meeting planners prioritize venue selection, and how the hotel site inspection fits into their decision-making process.

And for more tips for closing group sales, check out these blog posts:

The Site Visit Revisited

Want to learn more about hotel site inspections?

What is the purpose of an inspection?

Generally speaking, inspection refers to an evaluation related to safety or regulations. However, in the hospitality and events industries it more frequently refers to a site visit.

What is a hotel site inspection?

A visit to a hotel property for the purpose of evaluating whether it is sufficient for an event.