November 2022, Virtual
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
BBT'smysterybuyersays that TMCs and hotel booking agencies pitching for business should be honest about their services
Recently, a TMC rang me and asked to have a chat, and I said yes. There were two of them on the call and they launched into a rant about what they were doing, and although they were on the phone for about half an hour, they gave me no opportunity to speak and only asked me one question.
Eventually, I said I would to leave it for now – they weren’t going to listen, and what they were offering wouldn’t work for us anyway. I get this attitude mainly from TMCs and HBAs (hotel booking agencies) – not all of them, probably about 25 per cent.
I wish suppliers would firstly find out from the customer: How do you work? What is good, what is bad? What would you like to improve on? What would you like from us? They should recognise that every company is different, and be asking these questions rather than appearing to read from a written script.
I deal with a lot of suppliers and some of them don’t sell like that. We have a relationship with them, maybe we see them at industry forums and they come and speak to us – and they don’t always talk shop because they know you’re not always looking for someone.
I might phone them or email once or twice a year to keep them interested and then if we are looking for something, we remember them and phone them because they created a relationship. But I wouldn’t contact those who phone up and give a blanket steer on things, even if I did need someone.
I realise it can be difficult getting a hearing and they may often phone prospective clients, leave a message and not get their call returned. Probably the best way is through an ITM or BBT forum, where people are more open to talking to them and are expecting those conversations.
The best way is not to give a hard sell but to use those events as an opportunity to find out whose contracts are up and what companies need. It is also a good time to get a name, and then that person is more likely to be willing to talk to suppliers when they ring and say ‘we spoke at X event’. A phone call is better than an email, which can get deleted.
I recommend the following subjects as preliminary questions:
Often suppliers will claim to be able to do something, and we only discover later that they can’t. Over the years, I imagine most buyers have experienced that. I prefer the honest approach. It doesn’t mean they wouldn’t get the job - their competitors may not offer that service or product either - in which case, we would have to live with it. But if their competitors are doing it, then maybe they would have to look at that.
An HBA rang me recently, spent half an hour on the phone, hardly asked me any questions and then followed it up with an email but I was on holiday, so it went to our supply chain manager. The supplier ignored what I’d told them about our using Premier Inn and told her they did not charge a fee.
But with a non-commissionable hotel, they will charge a fee. I guess they were hoping that because she doesn’t work in travel, she might not know that, and because I was on holiday, they were trying to get a meeting with her. Suppliers should be up front and honest in the first place because they aren’t going to win the business if they are not truthful.