Why is “Sales” Such a Distasteful Word to Event Planners?

I recently was chatting with someone in events who reacted with a visceral shudder at the mere mention of the word “sales”. They looked as though they’d just tasted something sour.

And that’s not the first time. I don’t know how many times over the course of my career I’ve heard the same line from event professionals…”I don’t want to be in sales”. And it’s typically said in a disparaging…almost distasteful way.


Event planners definitely don’t want to see themselves as sales people. It’s as if sales is a less honourable career than event planning or production.

I’m not certain what is at the root of it. Maybe it’s fear of becoming the long stereotyped “used car salesperson”? Or the perception that sales people need to be loud and pushy and talk too much to be successful?

Or maybe it’s the fear of rejection?

Whatever the case, it’s an interesting and unwarranted viewpoint.

And one that everyone should get over in a very big hurry!

Because the truth is, in the world of events…EVERYONE is in sales.

Sales is a multifaceted discipline where one is at any given time a problem solver, relationship builder, consultant, negotiator, budget guru, networker, raconteur and a visionary.

(Sounds remarkably like an event prof doesn't it?)

Great sales people are driven, self-motivated and stellar communicators.

They are sincere and honest and empathetic. They listen incredibly well. They are tenacious, resilient, optimistic and patient. They can always see the big picture and set goals for themselves far greater than what management ever could. They are self-disciplined. They build meaningful relationships with clients and prospective clients and even those who will never be clients. They believe in their business with all their heart. They see opportunities and creative solutions at every turn and are fearless in their pursuit of excellence.

Those are the traits that I’d want for any employee. Not just the sales people.

Those are the traits of a great event professional.

Selling is about building relationships. It’s about answering an opportunity and solving problems. It’s listening to the needs of the customer and then providing a solution.

That’s what event planners do...

  • Every time they present their ideas to the client…they are selling.
  • Every time they negotiate with a supplier it is ultimately about the coming together of the needs of both parties.
  • Every time they tell someone about their work…they are potentially building a new customer relationship.
  • Every time they enthusiastically convince someone the merits of attending their latest event…they are selling.
  • And every time they bring their team together to build momentum for the next project…they are selling.

Just because “sales” isn’t part of a title, it doesn’t mean it’s not part of the job.

The sales person may have the responsibility to reach out and initiate the relationship but EVERYONE is ultimately part of the sales process. They are part of developing, securing, growing and maintaining the relationship.

From the front-line staff that greets visitors or answers the phones to the operations and logistics staff that will execute the final plans – each individual who engages with the client is part of the process. Any one of those individuals or teams holds the power to enhance or destroy the relationship.

Ultimately, this makes each of them responsible for the business.

Their actions may lead to repeat or new business from a current client. That’s a sale.

They might offer a solution that increases revenue. That’s a sale.

They can influence a potential new client through their work. That’s a sale.

Maybe it’s time for event planners to recognize that sales ought not to be such a distasteful word!

My guess is they are already doing far more “selling” than they recognize.



Post by Margaret Johnston, eventswork.com

As a career event professional, Margaret brings valuable insight and knowledge to the recruitment, management and development of high-performance teams for the event industry. A strategic and inspiring leader, Margaret has held executive roles for several global event management companies and key roles in the start up and orchestration of many high profile and international events.


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