Negotiating Contracts Excites Me! (Seriously)

Missy Johnson, CMPAuthor: Missy Johnson, Principal, MJMeetings, LLC | Meetings Consultant | Gourmet Food & Wine Enthusiast | Sports Fan

Contract negotiations.

Most people hear those words and want to crawl under a rock or throw something hard out a window. I’m the exact opposite.

Negotiating contracts excites me.

The back-and-forth of a negotiation provides a charge of energy to my day that I don’t get from other work tasks. It’s a thrill to save myself and my clients money and mitigate risk. For those of you who might not enjoy this type of work, here are 3 tips to help:

1. Ask – Or You’ll Never Know

My #1 rule is to always ask for what you want. The other party can always refuse your request or offer an alternative. But, if you never ask for it in the first place, you’ll never know.

In the RFP’s I prepare, I’m very specific with my concession requests (discounts, comps, etc.
I outline from the very beginning those concessions that are REQUIRED vs. those that are REQUESTED. Vendors appreciate this approach because we have a firm starting point from which to begin our negotiations.

Missy is excited2. Repeat The Ask – At Least Three Times

In negotiations, no doesn’t always mean no. Sometimes if an item is very important to the contract, I’ll ask the vendor again and again for it to ensure that they know how important that item is to the negotiations.

In most cases, even if someone has said no to an ask once or twice, the third time is often the charm! For example, I was working with a resort in negotiating a large group meeting and I requested that they lower the rate two separate times during the negotiation.

Finally, when I asked for a rate reduction on the third request, they agreed to waive the resort fee. This turned into a savings of over $15 per room night, which translated into huge savings for my client!

3. Be Firm, But Cordial

Vendors who I regularly work with tell me I’m a tough but fair negotiator and they enjoy doing business with me. While I pride myself in pushing them for deals and discounts, I’m always careful to use a professional, courteous tone and be respectful of their bargaining position.

I’m always acutely aware that these vendors are also my partners in helping me execute a successful event on behalf of my clients. There’s no need to get unprofessional during negotiations because then you may make the other party feel as though you’ve bullied them into a deal they aren’t comfortable with.

I observed this type of behavior early in my career when I watched my boss negotiate a big deal with a large hotel. Because she held a lot of power due to the size of the meeting, the hotel was ‘bullied’ into giving her discounts and concessions they typically wouldn’t offer. It created unnecessary tension for all involved from the time the contract was signed through on-site execution of the meeting.

Have these tips in mind to help you and your organization keep your contract negotiations on the right track. If you still aren’t comfortable with negotiations, call me at 913-645-6649. I’m happy to help!

4 replies
  1. Kristen Kimbrel says:

    Great blog this week…negotiations are always a hot topic, especially now that the industry is becoming a sellers market. I agree with being up-front in the RFP process regarding what you want, I just wonder as it gets harder to book meetings as a planner, if we ask too much, is it now easier for the hotels to hit the “PASS” button? :) (and tell Mic – I don’t see a “Like” button for the blog…maybe he could add this?)

  2. Holly Mortimer says:

    Great blog Missy! Good refresher for me now that I’m on the “other side.” Hope you’re doing well!


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