Negotiating Tips from Hotels

negotiating tips
To help keep attendees at a 4-day training on their toes, W Scottsdale organized DJ-hosted lunch breaks.

It’s an old negotiating tip: Get inside the head of the person sitting across the table from you. So we turned to several hotels to share their negotiating tips from the front lines.

The best negotiations happen in an environment of openness and shared information, say hoteliers. We asked hotels to share their negotiating tips to help you get the best rates and outcomes for your next meeting.

Share Your Budget

Be honest. Hoteliers want to do the best with the dollars you have. “If on-property teams know what they have to work with, they will work within that budget,” said Sheldon Suga, manager, Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys. “Plus, the more we know about your group’s likes, dislikes, favorite activities and goals, the more refined and on target the proposal can be.”

Revealing your budget will not work against you, stressed Lauren Bosch, area director, sales & marketing, Kimpton Hotel Monaco Washington DC & Kimpton George Hotel. “Too often, clients ask us to provide the very best offer without providing full information. The best negotiations come from knowing what a successful meeting looks like to all involved parties.”

Let Your Hotel Help You Shine

Trust your hotel. Many companies start with a third party supplier for décor and other components and then come to the hotel with a limited budget, said Suga. “That is backwards. Each hotelier knows their own property and will work to maximize the total experience, from décor to F&B. We also can suggest outside vendors who know our property instead of an out-of-area vendor whose proposal may not be based on full knowledge of the venue and its potential.”

Don’t just ask your hotel for menus; ask for ways to make your event memorable, agreed David J. Cronin, CPCE, CMP, general manager, W Scottsdale. “Knowing our spaces and capabilities enables us to suggest cost-effective solutions that an outsider would probably not be aware of.” For example, for an intense four-day training, the hotel arranged a daily lunch event at its night club across the street with a different theme and DJ each day. “Attendees loved getting out of the learning environment and returned to the training fully recharged.”

As part of the site selection process, look beyond dollars, said Cronin. People crave new experiences and hotels have many ways to engage. “We look at each event as a jigsaw puzzle, bringing everyone with a piece of the puzzle to the table to provide creative ideas for furthering the event’s goals.” For a high-end dishwasher rollout, the hotel floated it on a platform in the pool and brought in synchronized swimmers suited up in company logo colors. “It was memorable and relatively low cost.”

Ways to Save

Include key negotiating points such as rebates, concessions, history, decision timeline and your true budget in your initial RFP, said Heather Allison, complex director of sales & marketing, New York Marriott Marquis and Sheraton New York Times Square. Low-balling your budget may impact what the hotel can offer. Knowing the deal-breakers and nice-to-haves versus need-to-haves allows us to prioritize for what is most important to you. Sometimes peeling off a few less-crucial requirements can result in a much better offer.”

Cut costs collaboratively. When cost is a primary concern, ask your hotel for suggestions, said Heather Doughlin, director of events, Hyatt Regency Trinidad. “We can provide the lower pricing during non-peak days of the week and months. You also might look at planning your gala for a luncheon instead of a dinner.”

Don’t cast too wide a net. Some hotels may convert as few as one percent of leads that come through sourcing channels such as Cvent. That means they may have to respond to 100 leads to close just one, said Allison. “If you are using one of these tools to source your program, try starting with a simple “request for availability” before asking hotels to complete the time-consuming tasks of mapping space and responding to customized questions. Then, narrow down your request to those cities and hotels you want a more comprehensive and thoughtful response from.  If the hotel knows you have narrowed down your search and they have a good shot at winning your program, they are going to spend more time putting forth their best offer.”

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