Five Strategies or Corporate Rate Negotiations
By Kacey Bradley, Lifestyle Blogger for The Drifter Collective
For travel buyers, the goal is simple — get the best possible hotel for corporate clients at the lowest rate. But when you sit on the other side of the bargaining table, it's up to you to ensure your business gets the deal it needs to thrive.
1. Keep a Level Head
Perhaps the most critical approach to any negotiation, whether it's professional or personal, is to remain calm. A rate debate between you and your client can become heated, and it's up to you to keep things level.
Start by adopting tactics meant to promote calm during negotiating chaos. For starters, if you feel yourself losing your grip on your emotions, focus on something physical, such as your breathing. Deep breaths in and out will ground you. You can also take note of your physical surroundings and sensations. All of this will help you zoom out and regain focus on the task at hand, rather than letting your emotions take over.
To that end, you should always keep in mind that the person with whom you're negotiating is, indeed, a customer. If they've been one for years or have otherwise contributed significantly to your business, approach talks with the aim of maintaining your relationship. Sometimes, it's not worth losing a loyal client — or your head — over a few dollars difference in rate.
2. Focus on Value
For some hoteliers, corporate rate negotiations hinge upon the bells and whistles that a hotel can provide. If your price exceeds what the travel buyer expected, explain precisely why your property deserves the extra dollar. Perhaps the rate includes free Wi-Fi, which is a necessity for business travelers. Or, maybe you've thrown in a free breakfast or fitness center access, knowing your professional guests will want to stick to their at-home routines.
On top of that, it's important to flex the benefits specific to corporate guests. Take, for example, Tachi Palace. It's both a hotel and casino, so it may not seem like the right fit for corporate travelers — at least not at first. However, the staff has made it comfortable for professional clients by offering group accommodation rates, as well as meeting rooms and event space. They indeed flaunt these benefits to corporate clients, who could be swayed into saying yes because of the additional benefits to them.
3. Make Sure Rates Match Demand
In some cases, a blanket rate for a corporate client simply cannot work. That's because hotels in one city or region will have more demand — and, therefore, higher rates per night — than those in less traversed areas. As the hotel's negotiating representative, it's up to you to know the prices at each of your customer's intended destinations.
Present this information to the client but soften the blow of a high number by promising lower rates in the cities where they need rooms and you need the foot traffic. Or, find a number in the middle that will balance out stays in both places. Either way, you're likely to discover a middle ground that prevents them from breaking the bank — and saves your budget, too.
4. Beware of a One-Size-Fits-All Pricing Model
On that note, it's also a good idea to have a consistent corporate rate for all your business-centric clients. Of course, this option might work for some business, especially those who proactively map out their travel budget for the year ahead. Knowing the cost of a hotel per night will ensure accurate accounting, thus allowing them to budget more precisely.
But other customers don't need as much assurance for their rates and prefer to take on a more flexible plan. For instance, some of your corporate clients might prefer the option to book with the given corporate rate — or to book as a regular customer, should a promotional offer make a stay more cost-efficient. Similarly, you might also prefer to offer a discount to corporate clients, rather than an unwavering price per night. That way, their fees will ebb and flow with demand, which could benefit both of you at different times of the year.
5. Find Clients with Similar Goals
Finally, a like-minded customer will make negotiations simpler for you. For example, if you hope to boost volume in the coming year, seek out corporate clients who can commit to many stays throughout the year. On the other hand, you might aim to increase the number of nights a guest says per visit. Long-term projects can keep professionals in hotels for extended periods, and you can court these types of clients, as well. Just offer them a discounted rate if their numbers will help you reach your goals — both sides of the bargaining table end up happy then, too.
Although your interests are often competing, you can find common ground with a corporate client. There's no better feeling than landing on a rate or discount that suits both of you, so don't give up — and don't give in. It all starts with a conversation and, perhaps, a few deep breaths.