Brand loyalty, volume
business and long-term planning are the keys to savings in a
seller’s market. Do you want volume discounts? More protection
against attrition? Better meeting rooms/space? Better contracts?
Consolidate your buying power.
The people who can help you obtain these goals are the hotel
chains’ national sales managers. Get to know these professionals,
and share with them your strategic plans for events that will be
held over the next few years.
Following are some other smart strategies to employ.
Chat up the chef
Trim the food bill by working directly with the chef and
the convention services manager. They can ensure your group gets
the highest quality food at the lowest price by letting you know
what the kitchen is ordering that week (so you can take advantage
of the bulk-buying savings), what is in season, and what is easy to
prepare and requires minimal kitchen labor.
If possible, find out whether other groups are meeting at
the same time. Your convention services manager can help facilitate
communication between you and planners for the other organizations.
Among the elements you might be able to share with other in-house
groups are flowers, decorations and basic signage.
Other ways to save: Agree on the same room setups to avoid
another labor fee; share a staff office, along with its Internet
connection and computer rentals. Too close for comfort? Work with
sister companies or clients to co-locate meetings and keep the
savings in the family.
When properties calculate their room/space ratios, thereby
optimizing their profits, your group criteria might fall short --
and you might get factored out of the deal. Keep in mind that such
ratios can be seasonal and can vary by property type. For example,
a resort looking to grow its group business might value your
meeting more than a convention hotel would. If your meeting dates
allow a degree of leeway, consider working with hotels to fill
holes in their calendars for a better deal.
Develop a resume
Treat your spec list (rundown of meeting requirements) as
a resume: The better prepared and more detailed your spec list, the
more likely your group will be “hired” by the hotel at the rate you
are prepared to pay.
Add some bulleted points that underscore the value of your
group. For example: “User group attendance will include 100
prospective marketing event decision makers,” or “Our group has
history staying on site and using venue outlets, with guests
typically spending $170 per day on food, beverages, spa treatments
and golf.” Such details are bound to make a stronger case with the
Sure, common wisdom is to keep your bottom-line budget a
secret during negotiations. But there are a few instances where
revealing all can work to your advantage. Have a realistic budget
based on what things should cost, and do your part to foster a
sincere, mutually trusting relationship with your sales contact at
If these points are satisfied, you can indeed say, “Look, I
have XX dollars per person. How can we allocate this amount at your
facility so we put on the best event and so that we both
Finally, share with top management/clients the savings
they can expect by using these methodologies. Documenting savings
not only will demonstrate your negotiating savvy, it will highlight
your flexibility and ingenuity.