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Making Friends

While I’ve often said that the salesperson at the hotel has the same goal that you do, i.e., you want to bring your reunion to the hotel, and that person‘s job is to get you to bring your reunion to that hotel; it does not mean that you are friends!

Oh, you can be friendly, you can smile, and you can be dripping sweetness, and so can the salesperson, but it still does not mean you are friends.

There is a time to be friends, and that is after the deal is signed! Up until that time, you are trying to get as much as you can, while the hotel person is trying to give as little as he/ she can.

It all boils down to perception, the perception of which one of you is weaker. Why? Because the weaker party to the negotiation will ultimately give in. That’s just the way it is.


The perception of weakness depends on how badly you want to make the deal, and how badly the hotel needs your business. This leads to a key question for you: “How can I make my (bargaining) position stronger? Surely, there are a number of ways you can accomplish this.

The strongest point in your favor, although many planners do not realize it, is that you can just say “No!” If you come across a situation that you do not want to accept, then just say “No,” and see what happens. You can smooth it a bit and say something like “That’s not satisfactory,” or perhaps, “My committee will not accept that.” I don’t care how you phrase it, because the fact is that you are not there to make friends, you are there to make a

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deal that is favorable to you and your group.

I freely admit that this is not the usual way of acting, but you are not the sales person in this case. Let the other side tell you exactly what they are offering, and if you do not like it, you have the same privilege that any customer for anything has, and that is walk away and go somewhere else.

Not Friends, Yet

Remember you are not seeking friendship. You are not seeking a long-term relationship. What you want is respect, and a good deal for your group. To do this, you can build a picture of what your reunion means to the hotel. To do this, you need to understand the hotel’s position first. You may have to make some inquiries, so find out from the CVB, or even ask the salesperson at the hotel, when that hotel is least busy.

In your previous reunions, try to find out how much the attendees in total charged to their hotel rooms over and above the room charge and tax. This total number is something you can toss into the negotiation pot at the right time, by telling the other party that your group, in addition to the rooms and the banquet, typically spend another $30,000, $40,000, or $50,000 at the hotel. If you do not have that number, go back to your last two reunions, call the hotels where you were, and see if they can give you the number.

Also, before even starting negotiations, before you even think of checking the hotel and the area, you should have a list of the things you want and demand.

Point out that your group is coming at the time when the hotel is least busy, and that you want to do business with them, but they must meet your basic wants. After that, you can sit back and wait

for the response. Anytime you do not like the answer, just say “No!” Either they go along, in which case you can proceed with the negotiating session, or you can get up and walk out.

The decision to end the negotiation because the other party does not want to give you want you are seeking is the ultimate. Once you play that card, the negotiation is over, and is unsuccessful. You want to use that as the ultimate threat, not do it over trivialities.


That’s why the RFP (Request For Proposal) is such a powerful tool. You can put everything you want in there, and if the hotel offers you something less, you can merely point to what you have said, and say “That’s not responsive.” This is important because many hotel personnel do not read the RFP. You should bring a copy with you, and any time there is an objection, all you have to do is point to the place in the RFP and say something on the order of “If you did not plan to meet my needs, why did you think you would get my business?”

Friends, Now

After you have gone through your list, and hopefully convinced them to go along with all of your wants, it is time to become friends. Unfortunately, there is a strong likelihood that the person you negotiated with will not be there when your reunion takes place. That’s not the important thing. The important thing is that you got what you wanted for your group,

You accomplished your mission, and made a friend afterwards. You made a friend AFTER the deal was made, not before, and not during. That’s effective negotiation. R EUNION F R IENDL Y N EWS • Spring, 2012

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