When negotiating travel supplier deals, it can be very easy to get caught up in “winning.” After all, for someone to feel like they obtained the best deal possible, the other side needs to lose, right?
At a recent Travel Institute leadership series webinar, industry veterans Gary Pollard, CTC, president of Ambassador Tours, San Francisco, and consultant Brian Robb, CTIE, proposed that agents think more long-term than the deal directly in front of them. (Prior to forming Robb Aspect, Brian was senior vice president at the Mark Travel Corporation and Trisept Solutions.)
Here are some of their top tips.
1. Remember there are two parties at the table.
“In the past, I have gone in to negotiations one-sided, thinking it is always about me,” said Pollard. “When I went back to that supplier, wanting to do more, no matter what, the relationship was never the same.”
Pollard advised agents to think, “What does the supplier need? What do I need? And how do we build a long-term relationship? Don’t look at the supplier as the enemy.”
2. What can you give?
Robb said that an agent’s knowledge of the consumer’s wants and needs are very important to suppliers; “if they’re not a major consumer-direct company, they’re dependent on the agent for knowledge. That is a big part of the value of an agent.”
So offer what information you can to be of help, Pollard said: “What is the supplier trying to accomplish? Do they need to grow sales in a particular region? How can my clientele help meet that need?”
3. There’s more on the table than just commissions.
Commission only matters if you sell—so think beyond just a higher rate. Can you get flowers in the guest room for your clients instead? Are there other amenities you could build in to a package that could set your offer apart from the competition? Negotiate everything, including price, amenities, co-marketing.
4. Relationships last longer than deals.
Often sales reps leave after a year or two and go to another company—and for better or worse, your personal relationship goes with them. So don’t burn bridges.
“If you have a relationship with a salesperson, and you know you can trust each other, that is a big factor in success,” Robb said.
5. Get the complete picture.
There often are many layers involved in a negotiation that go beyond you. Is the supplier talking to your host agency, to your franchise? You should be aware of everything negotiated for you. What someone may not be able to tell you is that they cannot pay more commission because your franchise is already capped out.
6. Put it in writing.
Draft a recap of the meeting within a few hours if at all possible. If you wait too long, you may forget a key point. Document when you had the conversation, what was discussed, any follow ups.
Then analyze the results of your deal and report them back to the salesperson. It’s critical to any future negotiations to let them know what you think worked and what could have worked better. Repeat what was successful.
“When you’re through, go back to the other party and say, ‘How did I do?’ This way you can learn about what the other side is thinking about the deal too,” Robb said.