The hotel-meeting planner relationship is secured and forever trusted if the negotiation experience is pleasant and respectful of mutual concerns.
Editor’s note: This is the first column in a three-part series examining the evolution of meeting negotiations. The second installment examines the benefit of CVB involvement and the thought process of hotel sales professionals. The final column describes the importance of open communication throughout the negotiation process.
Continuity among like-branded properties is a thing of the past. There can be no continuity of expectations.
When sourcing and contracting a series of training meetings across the country, I found a midsize prominent hotel brand, Hotel A. Granted, it was a small meeting, but all our future business was really at stake.
Hotel A’s sales rep and I started contract negotiations. I had a simple, two-page template that I expected to wrap in two hours. Days went by. The sales rep avoided me. “I have to take this to my marketing director,” she said. The back and forth over minutiae continued for days. Finally, when I thought everything was ironed out, the marketing director stonewalled on an issue that had already been agreed upon.
Then it hit me: They don’t want our business. Why put us through days of unproductive time and broken deadlines if they weren’t interested? They could have just declined.
I only bring this up because that same week I talked to a rep at Hotel B, which flew the same flag. Hotel B’s sales rep processed the exact same training program contract without a hiccup.
This experience really made me think. There is a much larger picture emerging here other than picking on the difference between two prominently branded hotels. It seems the hotel-meeting relationship has fundamentally changed. Where is the hospitality in contract negotiating?
Hospitality in negotiations
I have been in the meeting planning business a long time. To me, sourcing is the most exciting part of planning a meeting because concept and creative is still in development. I enjoy the “gavotte” of identifying and engaging the properties that are potentially right for my meeting.
I liken it to a courting ritual where the hotel sales reps during the request-for-proposal stages show off their feathers and treat you like royalty. When conducting onsite inspections, I’m always amused when the hotelier gives me a suite. And then six weeks later when I am back to actually run the meeting, I am put in a typical double-double. I really don’t mind; I just think it’s funny.
I picked up a good tip years ago from a fellow planner to use during the RFP stages: My meeting is the prize to be had.
I had the leverage of once saying to one sales rep that another hotel’s sales rep (nameless of course) was offering me more. “What can you do to answer that?” I asked.
We quibbled over coffee gallon prices while together discovering exciting solutions on how to hold our event. There was cordial give and take and understanding. The sales rep became invested in ensuring the success of our meeting.
The bottom line is: Hoteliers want my business.
Well, yes, but ...
I first got to thinking about writing this article after admitting how simplistic and naïve that last statement has become. Things have changed. The hospitality industry is now very dense and fraught with nuance and evolvement and legal review.
The hotel-meeting relationship has to work both ways.
We seem to have lost that dual partnership, the “we are in this together” feeling. Now it is about “how badly does the sales rep want your business?” and “how badly does the group client want to be in that hotel?”
After weeks and weeks of doing non-stop sourcing and contracting as a third-party vendor, I had to admit that the gavotte is gone and we are now into factory planning. “Get the contract off your desk. Next!”
When dealing with template contracts where you must defend for your client, the new art of negotiating now becomes which contract will prevail—your client’s or the hotel’s? It is exhausting to finally work though the template contract only to now have to go through it all again with the hotel contract, especially when knowing we already are in agreement with all the key clauses.
The hotel relationship is secured and forever trusted if the negotiating experience is pleasant and respectful of the mutual concerns. That is how and where customer loyalty is born.
But this is not as easy to accomplish. It requires an understanding of all the stakeholders involved—not just their identities but their motives and perspectives. It also requires open channels of personalized communication that allow for flexibility.
I’ll be exploring each of those topics during the next two days in an attempt to promote more effective, fruitful negotiations for you going forward.
Andria specializes in hotel relationship marketing. With more than 18 years of professional experience covering client objectives and meeting needs, Andria understands the business perspective from the hotel, corporate client, agency and planner point of view. Specializing in hotel relationship marketing during a renovation, conversion or new construction period, Andria works closely with a hotel in brand development by creating customized communication programs for the group/guest to facilitate convenience during the renovation period. Andria is a member of HSMAI, MPI, M&I, PCMA and more. You can reach her at www.meetingknowledge.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.