These four unwritten variables exist in every negotiation. It pays to learn to recognize what they are and how they can help you get what you want.
1. Power. This is the ability to get the other side to do things in the way you see favorable. The top two power sources are competition and the printed word. If a hotel knows that four other hotels in town want your business, then that hotel likely will want your business, too. Hotels play that game, too. They try to get more than one group interested in the hotel. And remember: Always question the printed rate—printed rates are not final rates.
2. Time. Ninety percent of the negotiating happens in the last 10 percent of the time allotted. Negotiating will go on forever unless one side imposes a deadline. The corollary is that time works against the person who doesn't have it. Never reveal your real deadline, and never negotiate when you're in a hurry.
3. Knowledge. Knowledge is a combination of expertise and information-gathering regarding the wants and needs of the other side. How and when is the person you're dealing with evaluated? How experienced is the person? What's the hotel's average daily rate? When is its peak season? Does it have other customers who want the same dates?
4. Leverage. Leverage is your ability to get the hotel to want your business and to give you favorable terms. What can you offer that gives you leverage? Are you filling rooms that otherwise would go empty over your dates? Can you offer repeat business? Are your attendees likely to extend their stays pre- or post-meeting?
Source: Consultant and counselor John Foster, Esq., CHME, senior partner/attorney with Foster, Jensen, and Gulley, LLC, speaking at a past meetings industry event. Foster specializes in the legal aspects of meetings, conventions, trade shows, events, and association management.