Exhibition News June 2018 - Page 45

COLUMN: SALES TALK Standing out Jenni Ford, head of sales at the Ricoh Arena, reveals how venues can come out on top in a competitive sales environment ‘W hat can your venue do for us that others can’t?’ is the question often posed by event organisers to venues at industry events such as Confex. While venues are jostling with each other to answer this question at these industry events in the hope of winning business, the reality is exhibition organisers are taking their time on the location for their show as they search for the best value-for-money. This means having everything on- site from event services to help with the build of the show, through to hotels and restaurants for delegates. As organisers are given quotes left, right and centre I’ve found that what they really want is somebody who takes the time to get under the skin of their show before even discussing costs. This is an absolute necessity as it enables venues to provide an accurate proposal, without any hidden costs. Before getting to this point though, it’s crucial that venues understand what their core purpose is within the events industry so it helps to manage organisers’ expectations from the outset. At the Ricoh Arena for example, such is the fl exibility of our fl oor space, meeting rooms and in-house event services team, we see our role as an incubator that helps shows to develop and grow. Selling to event organisers needs to be treated similar to starting a long-term friendship with somebody – getting to know them, listening to their professional concerns and regularly meeting. It’s also important to note that venues aren’t just selling to one person representing a show, they are also selling to other people central to the show, such as sponsors. In the past at the Ricoh Arena we have invited prospective customers into a hospitality box for a Wasps rugby match. The signifi cance of this is that the event organiser, sponsors and supporting team are given a tour of the venue and get to see fi rst-hand how we operate, and are introduced to the wider event management team. Nothing beats prospective clients seeing how your venue ticks – particularly if you have new investments to show off to them. Venues that shout about their successes are often the ones that successfully stand out from the crowd. Entering event industry awards are an ideal way of doing this as you are positioning your venue as a market leader right in front of your target audience’s very eyes. We were extremely proud to have won the Best Venue Under 8,000sqm category at this year’s EN Awards, which is a great coup for us when trying to attract smaller shows. Flexibility is also key to any sale on various levels - it’s important to listen to what organisers want. From my experience a lot of smaller shows in their infancy are often unsure of how much space they require for stands and visitors, so the Ricoh Arena provides added space for free so that next year the organiser will have a better idea of what is needed. Flexibility on contracts is also important. Approaches that have worked well for us in the past have included signing deals that involve an event organiser hosting a certain number of shows a year, with the option of a further couple of years if they wish. Telling an organiser that their plan isn’t suitable for a venue, whether it’s “Venues that shout about their successes are often the ones that successfully stand out from the crowd” due to cost or otherwise - isn’t acceptable nowadays. Venues need to offer a plan B for any problem – which is a key driver behind why 77 per cent of exhibitions held at the Ricoh Arena are tracked as returning the next year. Venues also need to be set up and prepared to accept requests at short notice for their event space, which is on the rise. The Ricoh Arena set up its own short-lead events desk in 2017, which has contributed to a 20 per cent rise in short lead sales. When I say short-lead this could be anything from 24 hours’ notice for meetings, through to six months for conferences, which, once upon a time, used to have at least a 12-month lead time. Some of these shorter-lead conferen ces are also bolting on an exhibition element to their shows now too, so it’s critical that marketing materials are aligned to the changing demands of event organisers. Attending industry shows such as Confex will always be instrumental in drumming up new business, but it is what happens after that, that counts. The best sales tool a venue can have is the attitude of its staff. We are selling everyday just by the impact of our actions – if a good impression is created, then customers are likely to keep on returning. exhibitionnews.co.uk | June 2018 45