How to Find the Perfect Balance
Even after twelve years when folks ask me what I do for a living, I hesitate to say that I negotiate for my clients. I suppose because that word comes with different perceptions from others about what that truly means.
Some might think that our role in site selection is to mediate. While we certainly do 'intervene to resolve a dispute', more often we avoid having the things get to that point. It just takes so much time and energy - for everyone. We prefer a harmonious process.
The way we negotiate at The Howes Group
is more intuitive as opposed to something you learn on a course or from a negotiation expert. We do not follow a script. We know when we have struck a good deal because everything 'feels' balanced.
The only way I can explain it is to give you a scuba diving analogy. When I was learning to scuba dive, it was very hard to find that place of calm and confidence. My mask was fogging up, my breathing and heart rate were elevated, hoses were tangling and weight belt was slipping. Then one day after hours of practice while diving in Tobermory, I finally got it. With every inhale my body would go up and on the exhale, it would go down - ever so slightly. It felt amazing and perfect all at the same time. Buoyancy.
Finding this place of ease and perfection in our work with you and our hotel partners takes days, weeks and even months. It isn't easy but we know what we are looking for in the end. And until we get there...we keep on adjusting to find that perfect place of balance.
Top 5 Ideas: Get What You Want and Need
Tell me what you want. (What you really, really want!)
Our clients are all different and their conferences all have different needs. Most will have what we call their ‘wish list’ of requests to be included when they sign the contract. Often, hotels give many of these ‘wishes’ as a signing bonus, but some hotels and some ‘wishes’ go beyond what is offered. When making requests, keep in mind there are costs to operate a venue: power, labour, cleaning and food. Venues try to balance being helpful to win the business, while not giving away the house. One of my sayings is “though many our clients are non-profit, the venue isn’t – it’s a for-profit business.” Therefore, at The Howes Group, we always work with you based on the principles of fair and balanced.
- WI-FI – The number one request in today’s digital age: complementary internet access. In some cases, like a training company I work with, we may have 40 people on laptops at one time needing high-speed internet access. Remember this is a cost for the venue. It’s not free. However, in the case of government groups, many require secure hard-wired internet, so in this case it’s a special request that needs to be priced out in advance.
- Upgrades or complementary rooms – This request is often included in many larger contracts, as a 1 in (50) or so many rooms as an incentive to fill your guestroom block. You can negotiate with hotels on this issue, but show that you can back up the request with your ‘pick-up history’ with this venue or others in the chain. Most venues have upgrade options on offer.
- Meeting space – Here’s one that I find is a struggle to come to an understanding with for both sides of the contract. Many event planners ask for meeting space charges to be waived or reduced drastically, in lieu of catering or their overall spend. Many venues are not willing to offer it for good reasons:
- If it’s a convention centre, they don’t have guestrooms to balance out costs. They make their revenue with the catering.
- In a hotel, they may not control the catering so the meeting space is the only place they can make revenue.
- There is a happy middle. In venues where you have a lot of guestrooms and a large food and beverage minimum, they are happy to offer this.
- Points! – Hotel brands have some fantastic planner points available. Brand loyalty is a big part of the hotel business and they want to keep you coming back! Many even offer specials such as bonus points for signing or ‘in need’ periods or in upcoming quarters, however many brands require the planner to take an online course to qualify for meeting planner points. However, as with everything else, there’s a value to it. Points are purchased by each hotel to give to the loyal members and planners so it’s not a ‘free’ add on. Ensure that what you are asking for is reasonable.
- Extra Extra! – Parking, welcome gifts, reception drink, spa service discounts, the list can be lengthy. Many venues will offer these complementary add on’s that really look like a great bonus. Read between the lines on some offers, sometimes what can seem like a great bonus could be costing a better concession in its place.
Here’s the bottom line, know your needs before you begin to negotiate. The Howes Group has the knowledge and experience to guide you through every step of your site selection. We’ve done the research and because site selection is what we do daily, we’re your partner throughout the process. We save you time and money while we reduce your stress. We ensure both sides get what they really, really need.