Negotiating skills, clear communication and knowledge of the industry are among the must-haves for successful meeting planners, according to Nancy Norman, president of The Norman Group.
A meeting planner, expert negotiator and the author of “Contract Addendums With Negotiation Techniques That Work,” Norman said it’s essential that planners hone their negotiating skills.
They should also know they don’t have to settle for poor performance by host hotels, she said. There’s too much competition in the industry for properties that provide poor service to survive. Norman talked with Travel Market Report about the essentials of negotiating.
Be clear about expectations
Planners should demonstrate, through their negotiating expertise and booking behavior, what they expect from a host hotel. Those expectations should not only be clear to the hotelier; planners should require hoteliers to say as much during negotiations. In today’s world, there’s no reason for planners to tolerate poor service if their expectations are clear from the start. The only exceptions are emergencies and in those situations both planners and hoteliers should have tested crisis management policies.
Know what negotiations are—and aren’t
Negotiating is an art, a skill and a science coupled with a commitment to ethical values and high standards. Negotiations are not manipulation. They are static in nature regardless of the atmosphere, conditions or market.
Negotiating skills are paramount
A planner’s success will depend on his or her negotiating skills. It’s not just about the wording of clauses; it’s about the resolute practice and study of the negotiating process, the intelligent application of techniques, and a current knowledge of contracts including liabilities and risks.
Keep up to date with the industry
Current knowledge of the hospitality industry and the specific properties to be booked is crucial.
Personal site visits are a must
Planners should never book a venue they haven’t visited personally. Planners’ needs and values differ depending on the company and attendees. If a hotel doesn’t agree to all the requirements, the planner shouldn’t book that venue. Site visits are not just about checking out a hotel. They also serve to forge relationships with future bookings in mind.
Include clauses dealing with specific issues
If the hotelier and planner are on the same wavelength but don’t want to take any chances regarding expectations, it’s wise to include a contract clause dealing with specific issues and including financial restitution for poor service.
Don’t settle for poor performance
There hasn’t been a decline in service in well-run hotels. They are not interested in lowering their standards and they will do almost anything to prevent that. Competition is great in the hospitality industry and those who cut corners are soon left in the dust. Planners can choose from scores of excellent potential venues; they simply shouldn’t do business with hotels offering poor service.