Partner Relationships: Taking the Initiative to have Partners Back in the Office for Product Knowledge Sessions

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The Covid-19 pandemic has forced millions of people to work from home for the best part of over a year. This has had a massive impact on the meetings and events industry. One of the biggest changes during such an uncertain time was the loss of face-to-face meetings with our partners. At Venues and Events International we value our partnerships and our famous lunch and learn sessions. The inside knowledge gained during the product knowledge sessions provides a huge benefit to the team. The expertise which our suppliers provide add value to the overall service delivery that we give to our clients.

We caught up with Marlene from our team, as well as few of our key partners on their thoughts on the benefits of face-to-face product knowledge sessions.

When Covid-19 strict regulations were in place and no one was allowed in the office, what were the most challenging parts of not seeing partners face-to-face? 

Marlene:  I think for me the most challenging part was when you are face to face with a partner the conversation flows better. Unlike when you are on teams or zoom meetings there can be a delay in the connection. This can cause an element of talking over each other or sometimes stops people from saying anything altogether. I feel more relaxed having our partners back in the office and that personal element is back.

How did the Venue Finding Team and our partners adapt during the pandemic to ensure that there was an ongoing relationship built? 

Marlene: We would include them on calls with our clients for venue and group updates or with Suppliers we would get our clients involved in short sharp demos, for example, energisers!

Tracey Norcup, business development director, Valor: As Business Development Director for Valor, it’s so important to be in front of clients and not become a forgotten face. So, like everyone else, I’ve been keeping in touch over Teams/Zoom but nothing beats meeting up in person.

What is the most enjoyable part of having partners back in the office?

Marlene: Seeing new and familiar faces again and having a conversation that is not scripted and flows. We also love showing our partners show rounds around the new office space! It is also great to have that interaction face-to-face without looking at yourself on screen!

How do the Venue Finding team benefit from the face-to-face product knowledge sessions and lunches? 

Marlene: Sometimes when a supplier comes into the offices it is all about timing and thinking more about your new enquiries. This will lead to more discussions as to whether the suppliers can help. This is a critical opportunity for all teams to be around. Also, we love a face-to-face social media photos to show to all our followers.

Ben Hioco, Director of Sales, Countywide Hotels: At Countrywide Hotels myself and my sales team are delighted to be back out on the road meeting clients face to face again. Many things have changed since before lockdown. Countrywide Hotels has expanded rapidly so it is very important for us to be meeting, explaining these changes, and sharing what we can offer. We recently had a stand at the Meeting Show and CHS Birmingham. There is nothing better than being out meeting people and talking about our hotels and venues.

Are our partners keen to come back into the office? 

Marlene: One hundred per cent YES, they love it and want to see us, we all love the buzz in the office when a partner visits. It’s not only about gaining more knowledge from our partners but building on our relationship.

Ben Hioco: The sales team have also been out visiting clients for lunch and learn sessions and helping to improve their product knowledge. There is a huge value in this face-to-face meeting as with so many changes it is a lot to understand.

Tracey Norcup: The buzz, the excitement, and the sheer joy of seeing familiar faces again has been intoxicating! Every encounter I’ve had has been a positive one. Many of my appointments have run over time as we’ve had so much to talk about. I started to return to in-person meet-ups in early June. My first lunch & learn was with you all in July and it didn’t feel strange. It felt like seeing old friends again. Now that I’m 4 months in, I’m still finding it a real buzz. It feels different, better even, and something that shouldn’t ever be taken for granted. Human connection is so powerful!

Sally Crowley, National Account Director, Crimson Hotels: We at Crimson, have been lucky to have our M&E teams back in the office since the beginning of 2021 which has proven hugely beneficial. We have had the ability to continue to deliver excellent response times to all our clients. The return for us, like many, has been challenging, however, we are now starting to see enquiries coming through, of a similar level to that of the demand in 2019 for many of our hotels! I believe relationships are key moving forward; the needs of our clients and guests have changed. We need to be prepared to offer flexibility to meet their requirements. For us to drive the demand and win the business, we need to all work together, now, more than ever.

Taking the initiative to have people back in the office is a critical component of building a good relationship with our key partners. We believe that’s something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. We cannot wait to see what 2022 has to offer us at Venues and Events International and our partners in the future.