On Wednesday, I attended a luncheon at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort with Convention and Visitors Bureau leader Doug Price. The purpose was teaching people in the tourism business how to sell, not just a hotel or an attraction, but a whole city.
I expected a dry speech and drier chicken.
But I was surprised. The chicken was good. And there was very little yakking on the part of Price, who apparently believes that showing really is better than telling. Kudos to him. Instead of passing out in my chocolate mousse, I (and everyone else) filled out a survey.
Since the theme of the luncheon was "Selling Colorado Springs' Unique Strengths and Benefits," Price had each person rate Colorado Springs against a competitive city (in the tourism sense). There were a long list of factors we had to judge, ranging from "access" to "convention center" to "nightlife." Once we were done, we added up our scores, than averaged them across each table.
My table judged Colorado Springs against Vail. Others judged Denver, Albuquerque, San Diego and Tucson. Some tables were more positive than others. Being a bit of a Negative Nelly, I gave Colorado Springs the lowest score at my table, just two points above Vail. Our average came out in the Springs' favor by 13 points. Another group rating Vail put the Springs 19 points ahead.
But other tables weren't so cheery. A table judging Albuquerque put the Springs only 3 points ahead. One judging Tucson put the Springs 2 points ahead. And the Springs was solidly in the negative compared with Denver and San Diego.
So what was the point?
"We, as salespeople, always want to accent the positive," Price noted. "But as salespeople, what we get paid to deal with are the minus-ones, the minus-twos, the minus-threes."
In other words, Price says, salespeople have to predict objections and address them head-on. Sometimes that means building something up — like that fact that the Springs has lots of great meeting spaces, even if it lacks a convention center. Other times, it's as simple as dismissing misconceptions.
"I mean climate, hello," Price said. "How many people still think you can ski here?"
At the close of the meeting, business leaders were asking the CVB for a cheat sheet that would allow them to show the city in its best light.