Name: Jane Kantor
Title: Director of Sales
Organization: Visit Bellevue Washington
Location: Bellevue, Washington
Birthplace: Bellevue, Washington
Education: University of Puget Sound
• Edgewater Hotel in Seattle
• Embassy Suites in Lynnwood
• Meydenbauer Center
• Melby, Cameron and Anderson
• Visit Bellevue Washington
Jane Kantor, director of sales at Visit Bellevue, first got into sales and marketing as a recent college graduate.
“I was bright-eyed, just out of college, and I thought I wanted to go into marketing,” she said. “I interviewed for a sales position at the Edgewater Hotel. At the time, I didn’t even really know what that meant. But now I know it means that once you get into working in hotels, you never get out.”
Though Kantor joked about the hospitality industry being the type of career people stay in until past the age they should retire, she said that her hotel job ended up teaching her skills that are crucial to her work today. As a meeting planner, she understands the logistics of a hotel’s hosting a group, from breakout rooms to banquet dinners.
“I feel quite fortunate that that was my first job out of college — it is the greatest industry that I could possibly imagine,” she said. “It just has all sorts of interesting facets to it that you don’t realize are even out there.”
During her tenure, Kantor worked in the catering department, which she said was a beneficial path that gave her the tools she needed as a salesperson to be realistic about what was possible and the type of experience meeting attendees would have. After the stint in catering, she went to work at the Meydenbauer Convention Center in her hometown of Bellevue, Washington, which has about 54,000 square feet of meeting space.
Following her time there, Kantor worked with an association management company, which gave her a close-up view of meeting planning, especially when it comes to guaranteeing the attendees’ participation.
“It really opened my eyes to the complexities that a meeting planner has to deal with and all of the moving parts in getting a meeting planned and executed and the resources you need to do that,” she said. “It’s critical to have partners that are able to bob and weave along with you.”
One of the divisions of the Meydenbauer Convention Center is Visit Bellevue, so Kantor moved in that direction after meeting planning.
“I’ve gone from selling a hotel to selling a city that is a great place for smaller meetings,” she said. “We have undergone a lot of growth, and in addition to the convention center, we have larger hotels that have substantial meeting space.”
She said that the best advice she can give someone new to the sales side of the industry is to try to be an active listener when working to assess clients’ needs.
“I know that sounds trite, but it’s super important to not only actively listen but to read between the lines,” she said. “Figure out their pain points — asking about their bad past experiences of what did not go well at the last destination and being proactive so those problems don’t happen again, and getting creative, which is really the fun part of planning.”
Kantor said one of the best things about her job is that she gets to share the town where she grew up with the world.
“There’s a lot of problem-solving that happens in hospitality when dealing with visitors that aren’t familiar with your destination,” she said. “Not that I’m changing the world or anything, but it’s nice to think you’re giving someone a memory that they can look back fondly on when they think of your city.”
Tips from Jane Kantor
• Stay curious. Every person you meet will give you a gift — you just have to be open to receiving it.
• Ask questions. Digging into a thought can bring great rewards.
• Find humor in everything. It’s the best ab workout with the least amount of effort.