Event managers are constantly working to get the best deal possible and maximize the profit margin. In order to do this you need to learn how to get the prices and value that you want, which is where negotiation comes in. You may have already read our negotiation mistakes (that you really need to avoid) but that leaves the question, how do you make sure you will never lose a negotiation again?
Whether you are trying to land your dream job, a new client or a great deal from a supplier, being able to negotiate is essential and we’ve got exactly what you need so that you will be the negotiation hero of the office!
Know Your Value
What are you bringing to the table? And how much is it worth to the other party? You might be a regular customer or making a bulk purchase, you may even be bringing them other clients and this can give added weight in the negotiation because you are more valuable to them than just a single transaction.
Everything is Negotiable
Live by the phrase “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” because there is always a negotiation to be made. Even in stores you can often ask if there are discounts, coupons or offers available. If you are looking to become a negotiation ninja then you should never be afraid to ask to make the deal you are looking for.
Speak to the Person in Charge
Make sure you are not talking to the middle man (or woman) because you need to know that the person you’re dealing with has the authority to accept or decline your terms. Speaking to the wrong person can also mean your messages can be relayed wrong which damages your reputation and potentially the deal.
Make the First Offer
Contrary to popular belief, making the first offer can work in your favor by setting the tone of the negotiation. Research has shown that both parties tend to work around the starting figure and those who make the first offer are more likely to end up with an outcome that is closer to their number.
Encourage a Long-Term Collaboration
Setting up a business relationship can work in both parties’ best interest because it makes you think about the long-term goals. Generally, if you know you have to see or work with the other person again you tend to be more lenient and will more likely compromise on something now for a longer-term gain.
Don’t Counter Yourself
Many people tend to talk and discuss the offer you have made but don’t actually offer an alternative number or offer and before you know it, you are lowering your price without an alternative. Wait for an actual counteroffer first before lowering or adjusting your original offer otherwise you are negotiating with yourself.
Do Your Research
It is imperative that you do your own research before you go into a negotiation and you need to be thorough. Look at current market prices for any products you are discussing so that you know what is (or is not) good value, so you know what to look at. It is also worth researching the other party to see if there are any strengths or weaknesses you can use to your advantage and finally, research yourself and find the information that is available so that you aren’t caught by any surprises that come up.
If the negotiation is not going your way, try to offer other benefits that may not be too much of a compromise to you but may add value to the offer. For example free advertising space on your website for a month or offering to place their business cards and banner at the entrance of your next event can offer free publicity and value to the offer without costing you much in return.
Be Less Accommodating
Obviously you need to be helpful and willing to negotiate however don’t allow them full control or work entirely on their terms. Never seem like you are too available or accommodating to them or they may take advantage. Always be in control of one aspect of the negotiation such as picking either; the date, time or place.
Understand What is Being Offered to You
This may seem obvious but make them spell it out to you, don’t make any assumptions about what is on the table otherwise you may not know the true value of what you are negotiating over. Also explore added extras like service or add-ons that may not necessarily be added to the offer straight away but regardless, make sure you know what you are working for at each step of the negotiation process.
The Right Type of Negotiations Can Be Crucial
This can be complicated because it depends on the availability of the other party, the language barrier (if there is any) and whether it’s a valuable enough negotiation that needs a lot of time spent on it. You need to think about all of these factors and then decide which form is more suitable whether it’s email, phone, face-to-face or video chatting. Overcoming language barriers can be easiest via email and make both sides have more understanding of each other, while expensive and complicated negotiations with a lot riding on them should always be done in person.
Start in the Morning (and be prepared to go all day)
Valuable negotiations should start early which gives you plenty of time to negotiate properly without giving the other party time to go away and re-think or come up with new terms before it is resolved. Starting at around 10am is the optimum time to negotiate and it can also help to gauge how willing and invested the other party is. If they are happy to commit a decent amount of time, they are more likely to be invested in the negotiation. If not, they may not be as serious as you would like and you need to be prepared that you may not get everything you want.
Have a Back-up
You shouldn’t set your hopes entirely on one deal and you need to have a back-up plan and be willing to walk away if you can’t get everything that you want. Don’t get caught up in the bidding game, if you fundamentally aren’t happy with the deals or offers then you should be prepared to walk away (this will also come across during your negotiations and make you come across as more relaxed and less desperate).
Timing of your responses can be everything during a negotiation, don’t be too eager to jump on prices or promises. Being too quick or excited can give away your position and show you are more desperate than you are leading on which can lead to the other party increasing the price or trying to get more out of you. On the same note, being silent and taking time to respond can also unsettle the other party to make it seem like you could be willing to walk away meaning they may counter themselves.
Know Your Audience (knowledge is power)
Knowing exactly what the other person wants, their values and morals can help to assess their willingness to negotiate and how they will respond to certain offers. For example, someone who has a lot of morals and is family orientated will be more likely to respond to intangible values (such as long partnerships or support packages) whereas a business orientated individual will be more price sensitive.
Don’t Counter Too Low
Price or value always plays a factor in negotiating and you shouldn’t disregard this by making counter offers too low. This can frighten off the other party and make you look as if you aren’t taking negotiations seriously. It can also offend the other party and make them feel like their offers are worthless which does not create a productive relationship going forward.
While a lot can be at stake, try to lighten tension and make it a process that both parties enjoy. This can not only help for future business but also makes it appear as though it is not as important to you and that you could be willing to walk away. It is ok to have conversations while negotiating while trying to make it a less tense situation for all involved. If the other party enjoys doing business with you then the likelihood is that they will want to do it again in the future.
Practice Makes Perfect
One of the key points of negotiating is to have confidence and a poker face, you want to be honest and gain their trust without giving too much away and making it work for you. This is a delicate balancing act and the only way to truly learn is to practice. Try going to the local street fairs, flea markets or yard sales to work on your haggling and negotiating techniques and then slowly progress to negotiating more serious deals.
Countering Shows Compromise
It is very unlikely during a negotiation that a party will make an offer and then this will be accepted, no questions asked (that isn’t really a negotiation anyway) so compromising and making sensible counteroffers makes the other party feel more comfortable. If both parties feel as like they have gained something and given up something it makes for a better negotiation where everyone feels like they have won. Getting exactly what you want, while making the other party feel like they have gotten what they want is the art of negotiating and this is done by compromising.
Know Your Limits
What are you willing to compromise? And what is going to make you stand your ground? You need to understand where you are willing to draw the line, make sacrifices or even walk away if necessary so that you go into the negotiation knowing exactly what you want. In many cases if you have something you specifically will not compromise on (for example price, quality, materials or supplier sources) then you should make this clear from the outset at the appropriate time during the negotiation. That being said you should be wary of seeming uncooperative which can put the other party off.
It’s OK To ‘Reset’ The Offer
“Resetting” is a term in negotiating which means that the first (or second) offer are so far out of what the party imagined, wants or needs that they have to reset the table, take everything off and start from scratch. This can be daunting and time consuming as it involves rejecting all other previous offers however if you approach this in the right way it can make sure both parties are left happy. Use phrases such as “this is what I had in mind” rather than negative phrases that assume the other offers weren’t right so as not to offend the other party. When resetting also make sure that you fully explain your new offer and tell them the differences.
Make An Aggressive First Offer
We have already discussed getting the advantage by making the first offer however you should not be afraid of going in too low (or too high). Generally speaking you are there to negotiate and the other party will give you a counter, if you go too low initially you can very rarely go upwards so don’t back yourself into a corner or give yourself a limit too early on.
Get the Home Advantage
Having the meeting at your office or place of choice can make you feel more comfortable and give you an edge (and advantage) while negotiating. If the other party wants a location that is more neutral then try to pick a restaurant that you have visited before so that you know which food to order and you don’t have to worry about ordering while in the middle of a negotiation.
Trading is Negotiating
Don’t be afraid to offer a trade instead of cold, hard cash, trading still counts as negotiating and can be just as beneficial to both parties. This type of negotiation can be trickier because you will be determining personal value of items which is more of a matter of the perspective rather than dollar signs so if you can master trade negotiations you really are a negotiations ninja!
Never walk into a negotiation without being prepared otherwise you will not be taken very seriously and it will be over very quickly. There is no such thing as too much preparation during negotiation processes and it can actually give you an advantage by intimidating the other party if you have done your homework completely.
Hopefully these tips and tricks give you all of the tools you need to negotiate your way in the event industry, even when the stakes are high. Remember that confidence will win out in the end and ultimately there are always other fish in the sea, so if you are not happy with the deal on the table, walk away.
Original story on Event MB here