For all you meeting planners new to the planning world, this post is for you! My intention is to shed some light on the difference between Sales Management and Event Management, as you will encounter both during the planning and execution stages of your meeting and/or event. Before continuing, my disclaimer is this: the process is fairly firm across the board for all hotels, but not necessarily for other venues. Speaking strictly from a hotelier's standpoint, I can help you differentiate between the two points of contact.
The Sales Manager specializes in all components of the contracting phase, from the site visits to negotiating rates to cancellation and attrition clauses and beyond. They are experts in the hotel and finding the perfect fit for you. You can rely on them to work around a tight budget or get creative with a larger one. Think of the contract as the skeleton or outline for your event - by providing them with the bare basics (number of people, square footage needed, necessary back-up space, requested suites and upgrades, etc.), they will design the outline for your event.
Once the contract is signed by both parties (you and your Sales Manager), the contract is "turned over" to the Event Management team for execution. The Event Manager specializes in detailing your event. From menu selections and tastings to decor and set-up, the Event Manager becomes your point of contact until the event is complete. He or she will be personally assigned to you and depended on for any and all questions you have. All information that was shared with the Sales Manager is transferred to the Event Manager so you won't have to repeat yourself and start over.
Although many argue that it's frustrating to sign a contract and be put in touch with an entirely new person, think about it this way: having two people as experts in their respective roles is better than one semi-expert playing two roles! When every detail must be perfect, having experts in each field will ultimately make your program a success.