I don’t think it should surprise you that most meeting planners don’t ask enough questions of their potential partners or suppliers. While many focus on price and availability, if they are going to build a long-term relationship with a vendor, they need to go deeper. Event planners need to pinpoint how effectively they can work with a new hotel sales person, or event solutions company.

Here are 5 questions to ask that can take you beyond the typical “rates and dates” conversation:

Question #1: Given our event history, how does your experience match up to ours? 

For example, choosing an organization that has held many product launching events is going to give you more confidence than someone who has no experience in this type of meeting.

Question #2: What professional value will you bring to the table?  

Finding a partner with experienced, educated, and certified staff  — speaks volumes to their level of commitment to their employees. In addition, an organization that is well connected to MPI, PCMA, ISES, or IAEE, will act as a resource you can go to when looking for partner recommendations in other areas. Someone who is new to the industry or not well connected probably can’t help you out in a pinch or serve as a value-added partner.

Question #3: What are your organization’s key attributes? 

See if what they say matches your needs. If they say “low price” and “experienced staff” but nothing about a “large inventory of equipment”, “fast turnaround” or “quality customer service”, and the latter items are important to you, this is probably not the right supplier.

Question #4: How do you meet or exceed customer expectations?  

Meeting expectations is one thing, but exceeding them puts a vendor on a whole different playing field. Ask them for examples of ways they exceeded expectations and what the long-term benefit was for their company.

Question #5: Is it possible to speak to 2-3 other persons within your organization? 

Interviewing other people in the organization will shed some light on their corporate culture. You will be able to assess the size of the company, educational and experience levels, and have a better understanding whether or not you want to do business with them.