Contract Negotiating Tips from Professional Meeting Planners

For this post, I surveyed 15 fellow meeting planners asking for their top pet peeves and tips on how to overcome them when negotiating contracts with hotels. The results produced 8 challenges and suggestions (in no particular order):

1. Empowerment– the hotel salesperson has to review everything discussed with someone else (revenue management, their Director, etc.).

Suggestion- Discuss in advance who else will need to be involved in the contract negotiations. If necessary, establish a dialog with these individuals as well (do not let them hide behind the smoked glass window).

2. Knowledge– Some of the current hotel salespeople have not been thoroughly trained on their contracts and the meaning of each clause.

Suggestion- Ask to involve the director or manager internally who will be able to clearly articulate the meaning and purpose for including the clause being discussed in the agreement.

3. Franchise / Management Companies– Some privately owned brand name hotels do not follow the corporate guidelines causing the negotiating process to be different at each hotel.

Suggestion- Involve your GSO from the beginning so they are in the loop and can help work through any challenges. The negotiating process and experience should be seamless from one hotel to the next within the same brand.

4. Tunnel Vision – often the hotel salesperson is only concerned about their specific hotel and does not consider the big picture or total spend of the group (i.e. additional meetings the account could bring to the hotel or brand).

Suggestion- Involve your Global Salesperson (GSO) from the beginning so they can educate the hotel on the overall value of the account.

5. Hotel Turnover– The individuals on the hotel side change in the middle of the process with little or no turnover with the associate who replaces them.

Suggestion- Make sure you have everything in writing. Keep all email correspondence in the file with accurate notes of when changes occurred and any addendums that were generated. There is no getting around hotel turnover, but if you have everything documented, you will be able to bring the new person up to speed quickly.

6. Win-Lose Scenario– it seems that some in our industry believe the negotiation process is a game that must have a winner and a loser.

Suggestion- both parties need to know in advance and be able to clearly explain what they need versus what they want. There will be give and take on both sides, but if each side understands why the other is making the request, the process will flow without confrontation. This process can be done so there is a conclusion that both parties are able to accept.

7. Timeliness– It is hard to get the salesperson to have the same sense of urgency that you have during the negotiation process. Getting responses in a timely manner can be challenging.

Suggestion- Be sure to clearly communicate from the beginning what the process will be, who is involved and the expected decision date.

8. Month end/Quarter end/Year end– Due to a lack of information provided (covered in point #7), we do not have all the information needed to finalize the agreement. Suddenly, it is month end and the hotel salesperson gives us 24 hours to sign the contract or we will lose the dates, our rates will be increased, etc.

Suggestion- Again, communication is the key. The timeline and steps of the decision making process must be communicated clearly from the beginning – so there are no surprises.

These are just a few tips and suggestions I was able to uncover. What are your challenges and suggestions?

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