Negotiating – The Art of LindaKonomics

To make negotiations more straightforward and less intimidating, follow these steps:

1. Master the facts
2. Understand the other party’s position
3. Know what you’re willing to give and take to reach a win-win situation.

This preparation will help you overcome nervousness and allow you to get what you want!
Negotiating is hard. It takes practice and it takes time. When does a sales person’s job become easy? At one point can you call yourself a seasoned-sales person? According to “LindaKonomics”, here are a few thoughts on how one can improve themselves in the art of negotiating:

1. Master the facts.

If you do not know your product, and if you are not comfortable talking about your hotel as it relates to your competition – you are going to be an ineffective negotiator. This one step is the basis of your entire job! You must know your hotel product inside and out, its abilities, and its limitations. You must also know how you stack up to your competitive set. Have you toured your competition? Have you seen their products, promotions, brochures, advertising, and collateral? Have you been on their website? Do you drive their parking lots regularly? Do you know their sales people? Are you a member of their brand loyalty program? Do you know how to talk with customers about their strengths and weaknesses versus your offering?

Mastering the facts doesn’t happen in a day, week or even a month. This task is on-going and you must make a commitment every day to become savvy. Do you have a talking script (not one that you read, but one that has bullet points in a natural and organized progression) that you can use for various types of sales calls? Do you have your value added benefits taped inside your sales portfolio and near your phone so that these facts roll off your tongue and so there are not those uncomfortable silences during conversation? Do you work from a check list when prospecting or doing maintenance calls? (In your marketing plan template, I included sample forms that can [and should] be part of your sales files. Are you using a template at your hotel?)

2. Understand the other party’s position.

Listening to what your customers have to say and responding to questions, concerns, and ideas is paramount to the sales process. Yes, sales calls can become routine and boring. You find a contact, do some research, send a couple of emails, make a couple of calls, schedule and appointment or drop by, (hopefully) book the business, cook the business, and then send a follow up. “Shampoo. Rinse. Repeat.” Have you become boring and are you just going through the motions? Is your sales process stale and uninteresting?

Being creative, current, trendy, recognizing the seasons, stepping outside the box every time you see a customer makes the process (for both parties) more fun. Yes, dare I say it….. FUN! When was the last time you had fun on a sales calls. When was the last time you WOWed your client.

Finding new and creative ways to communicate with your customers, unleashes the monotony and helps you understand their needs. Are you incorporating “fishing questions” into your sales spiels? Asking your customers questions like, “in a perfect hotel utopia, what is your expectation as it relates to hotel facilities?”, “what is most important to you as a planner?”, “what is most important to your guests?”, “what do you like about your current hotel?”, “what do you dislike about your current hotel?” and being able to counter-sell to their response takes practice. Practice and role play in front of a mirror or with another associate. Do you look relaxed? Do you look confident? Do you look like you LOVE your job? DO YOU LOOK LIKE SOMEONE YOU WOULD BUY FROM?

Are you changing up your selling scripts to reflect the seasons? Can you write a clever headline or create an interesting flyer? Do you have different sales tools for different types of groups? In the perfect world, you would have sales kits for different market segments. The Corporate buyer doesn’t want or need the same information that a soccer coach wants or needs. A bride doesn’t care about the same things a meeting planner needs. Make all of your sales pitches and collateral “segment appropriate”.

3. Know what you are willing to give and take to reach a win-win situation.

Knowing your hotel’s need periods, rate ranges, and seasonality is all part of the sales process. If you have a customer that wants to “deal” during your prime selling days, offer them concessions if they change their dates or arrival/departure patterns that are more in line with the hotel’s need period. If they can’t change then you must justify and prove why you are worth what you are charging. A savvy salesperson knows what is going on in their hotel BEFORE they make a sales call.

Look at historical information and forecast reports. Read your daily report DAILY. Review your rate structure at least weekly. Read the newspaper and on line news so that you are current with community activities. If you are a hotel in New Orleans and haven’t optimized rates for the Super Bowl yet, odds are you have already left money on the table! Know what is going on in your community and when you can negotiate with confidence.

Write down your hotel’s list of negotiables. For example, while speaking with a customer you find out that complimentary breakfast is very important to their guests, but your property has a restaurant and no comp breakfast. Quote rates to include breakfast. If you have a list of things you can use as “value adds” instead of always lowering rate, you are maneuvering towards that win-win situation for both parties. They get what they want at your rate.

So now – re-ask yourselves my initial questions: “When does a sales person’s job become easy? At one point can you call yourself a seasoned-sales person?” Do you possess the above 3 skills?

Happy negotiating!


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