by Pádraic Gilligan, Managing Partner, SoolNua
The Association of Irish Professional Conference Organisers (AIPCO) 4th annual conference was held at the beautiful Lyrath Estate, Kilkenny gathering almost 200 MICE professionals around the theme “How to nail your sale”. For the third year running I moderated proceedings and this time was honoured to work with such luminaries as Clinical Psychologist, Maureen Gaffney, Meetology CEO, Jon Bradshaw, Social Media author and guru, Gerrit Heijkoop and Head of the Dublin Convention Bureau, Sam Johnson.
This year’s event used on and off line methodology to crowd-source the 10 ways to nail your sale and send attendees back to their respective companies armed and ready for whatever “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” might deliver. Here’s the Top 10 ways to nail your sale as voted by AIPCO 2016:
Respect the client – 1
Sales people are often guilty of focusing only on what they want to sell and on how, where and when they want to sell it. The better, more respectful approach starts with the clients’ wants and needs and tailors the sales process to their time and place or to the rhythm and dynamic of their business. It’s an approach that doesn’t bombard and bamboozle or clog up inboxes with voice and e mails.
Engage with your colleagues – 2
Sales people can be lone wolves, roaming the wilderness in splendid isolation, intent on winning 100% of the value of any eventual sale for themselves. This tactic may work well in the FMCG sector but in the high touch world of MICE sales it’s doomed to failure. In MICE we are ultimately selling “experiences” and delivering on experiences is an intricate multi-layered operation dependent on collaboration and cooperation with colleagues.
Prepare – 3
The oft quoted axiom “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” is usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin although more recently it has been associated with the great irascible Corkman, Roy Keane. Either way it’s crucial to the process of nailing your sale. In our hyper-connected marketplace there’s really no excuse for lack of preparation with data available on-line 24|7.
See it from the client’s point of view – 4
If you map the sales process from the client’s perspective you significantly improve your chances of nailing your sale. Why would Steve McGrath, Marketing Director at TruConnect want to book my venue – as opposed to the 5 other locations he could use? What challenges, issues, problems does he face on a daily, weekly, monthly basis that I could help him to solve if he booked my hotel? This approach and mindset will definitely lead to incremental sales.
Surround yourself with positive people – 5
Monica Lyng, my dear departed mother, instinctively understood the power of positive thinking. Years before it became a psychological precept, she brought me up with positive reinforcement, half full glasses and Doris Day “High Hopes”. She’d be tickled pink to see her home-spun philosophy lit up now in neon and trending amongst the twitterati as, for her, it was all so obvious: surround yourself with positivity and your negativity will gradually drown in the high sea of happiness.
Take time out – 6
The pace and rhythm of contemporary life can be overwhelming to the point of removing all reference points, context and perspective. We’re often left like Shakespeare’s King Lear, wandering aimlessly in a dense fog on unknowing. We need time out to re-connect with whom we are, our “authentic selves” because if we don’t start from authenticity, there’ll simply be no sale at all. This means taking time out. Maybe be a lone wolf for a while out in the wilderness until you feel you’re refreshed and re-connected.
Be relevant – 7
Relevance is often the single biggest obstacle to nailing your sale because it tends to be taken for granted. “You organise residential meetings. I’m selling bedrooms and meeting space. We’re an automatic fit, correct?” Not always! Your bedrooms and meeting space may not be relevant for my programme either because you’re a 5 star product and I have a 3 star budget or because you’re a resort property with a championship golf course and I only book urban hotels. Find out what is relevant to the client and highlight that.
Be nice – 8
Nailing the sale is the final piece in a complex but beautiful jigsaw that only properly forms when the key drivers of a business – culture, strategy and execution – effortlessly and harmoniously combine. When your culture is permeated by the Golden Rule – “only do to others as you would have them do to you” – the jigsaw comes together with ease and elegance and, as if by magic, you end up with the final piece right in the palm of your hand. Be nice!
Don’t be afraid to ask for help – 9
Being a lone wolf predator is no fun when you’re surrounded by bigger, stronger and cleverer predators on all sides. That’s why you shouldn’t ever be a lone wolf in the first place (unless it’s in fulfillment of No 6 above!). In the same way you should always engage with your colleagues, you should also reach out and ask for help. Nailing your sale is a complex amalgam of variables, many of which are rooted in human capital and emotion. Ask others to help you and you will build important human connections that will lead inevitably to successful sales. And don’t forget, too, to ask for the business.
Be Authentic – 10
“Be yourself, everybody else is taken” may be wisdom of the facile sort, more suited to fridge-magnets and printed tee shirts than programmes for life but it also happens to be 100% true. In the Meetings Industry relationships still matter and connecting face to face still seals the deal so there’s no time or place for pretense. Forget the sales seminars and the self-help books, ditch the on-line articles and the training courses. Get comfortable with whom you are, find your voice, set your stride and be the genuine you. This is how you bring differentiation, uniqueness and disruption into the conversation.
Pádraic Gilligan and Patrick Delaney run SoolNua, a boutique agency advising destinations, venues, hotels and agencies on strategy, marketing and training for the MICE sector.
Personal thanks to:
Patricia McColgan (Abbey Conferences and Events) and the entire AIPCO committee for having me back this year to moderate at this wonderful event;
Felix Stroud-Allen and Stuart Hadden from Crowd Comms who supplied us with a killer app and audience engagement tools to power our event;
Roger Kenny (Roger Kenny Photography) who year after year captures the essence of AIPCO with his wonderful photography and videography;
Joanna Hannick and team at Lyrath Estate who have made it very difficult for the host property of AIPCO 2017. Lyrath’s hosting of AIPCO 2016 was impeccable down to the tiniest detail.
Miriam Kennedy and the team at Meet in Ireland for their unstinting support of this event since its inception