Times have changed, and negotiating for venues and destinations is evolving. Third parties, technology, the recovering economy and competition have affected the process and the outcomes of planner-supplier negotiations.
That doesn’t mean the process has to be contentious, unpleasant or extraordinarily time-consuming. Success for both sides depends on good information and honesty. So whether you’re sourcing the event yourself or using a third party, the RFP must include the proper information. Use this as a checklist:
1) Goals. What are the event’s goals and objectives? What is its purpose?
2) Attendance. Who’ll attend? Is it a corporate event , for example, where attendance is mandatory?
3) Defining success. What key elements will support the meeting’s success? Is it airport access, a nearby golf course, a resort setting, shopping and restaurants, price or quality?
4) Payment. Who’s paying the bill, and what’s their priority?
5) Requirements. Does the group want specific activities? If golf is critical, for example, and there’s snow on the ground during the requested month, the supplier knows it won’t be considered.
6) History. Planners who provide history to document their buying power facilitate better negotiations. Educating suppliers about your business helps them provide stronger, more accurate proposals. If this is a first-time event, make that clear, and provide as much information as possible about why you expect the attendance (or space needs) you state in the RFP.
7) Flexibility. Are your dates flexible? Flexibility isn’t always an option, but it can help you find the best deal. Shifting your pattern by one day could mean getting into the hotel or city your client really wants. With resorts, shifting dates by a month to shoulder season might get you a great rate along with more space and concessions.
8) Food & Beverage. F&B helps define the value of your business. Meals, breaks and sponsored events should be included. If the event has a tight budget, include that information from the start. Hotels often have “value” options they can offer for the right group or at specific times of the year.
9) Buying power. Does your group have additional buying power? Will your attendees buy lift tickets, play golf or use the spa? This information lets the hotel/resort consider other revenue it will receive beyond guest rooms and planned F&B events.
10) Concessions. Concessions are available, based on the value of your business. So, you should expect that there will be some. When crafting your concessions list, realize that each concession costs the property something. Review your group’s goals and understand which concessions support these. Do concessions help the bottom line, let attendees get discounts on activities or is it just that VIPs need the best suites in the house? Prioritize, so hotels can understand what’s most important to you. They may even offer something you didn’t think of.
11) Pricing. Consider how far in advance you’re planning your event. Guaranteed pricing might not be possible. Everything from transportation to the minimum wage affects food costs. Expecting pricing guarantees three years out might not be reasonable, but a capped percentage increase could be.
12) Peak times. Understand peak time periods, and know that pricing and flexibility are based on the product demand. If your RFP doesn’t evaluate the concessions you ask for, your business might be seen as less desirable.
13) Smarts. Educate yourself on what’s considered most negotiable at a property. Don’t be afraid to have this conversation with your suppliers. It’s all part of building the relationship, and if the suppler isn’t willing to have this conversation, you might not be working with the right supplier.
Finally, remember that sending an RFP is the starting point, not the deal. Successful negotiating requires a detailed proposal, with both sides as active participants in the process. If you use representation, stay informed throughout the process so you’re happy with the end result.
These steps will save you time and money. Relationships are critical to a successful experience. So, always consider your vendor or supplier a partner.
What do you think of these 13? We’d love to hear from planners and suppliers. Please leave your comments in the box below.