Event professionals must use negotiation techniques throughout the event planning process. Strong communication skills are especially critical in the initial sales process, as the client often has several venues from which to choose. The sales manager must clearly communicate not only what the facility has to offer, but also the policies, procedures, and requirements that go along with having an event at a University. For instance, one must mention the insurance requirements, minors on campus policy, and alcohol restrictions from the outset. Otherwise, a client could claim he or she was not aware of these policies as they get closer to the ev…
Event professionals must use negotiation techniques throughout the event planning process. Strong communication skills are especially critical in the initial sales process, as the client often has several venues from which to choose. The sales manager must clearly communicate not only what the facility has to offer, but also the policies, procedures, and requirements that go along with having an event at a University. For instance, one must mention the insurance requirements, minors on campus policy, and alcohol restrictions from the outset. Otherwise, a client could claim he or she was not aware of these policies as they get closer to the event and are locked into having the event at the venue.
Once the agreement is signed and the event manager guides the client through the event planning process, clear communication and negotiation about their event options and choices continues critical. For example, the client may suggest turning the event set-up 90 degrees, causing the stage to be placed far from a power supply. An event manager must use his or her negotiation skills to explain why, for logistics as well as budget concerns, the event would be best set-up as originally planned.
Several long-standing negotiation techniques are especially helpful in the events business. The first involves researching and understanding the client. When a client first inquires about an event space, the salesperson should research the background of the person, organization, or company. It is best to know what their business mission relates to: Do they represent a non-profit providing counseling services to underprivileged youth or a high-end software company inviting clients for a product demonstration? Although each client will be treated equally, the sales message can be tailored toward the specific event needs. Think of a commonality with the client, such as a regional similarity or interesting anecdote that relates to their business. Research shows that clients who have a similarity or affinity toward a salesperson are more likely to be open to negotiations. Brainstorm on how the university facility could be a good fit for this client. Perhaps they need a quiet space away from students, a location in walking distance of the food court, or a building with parking in close proximity. Have a plan and strategy in mind of how to execute their vision.
Next, while the client is explaining their event vision over the telephone, invite him or her for a walk-through of the space. This will help the client not only see the beauty of the space, but also envision their event in the facility. This is called the "foot in the door" technique. Get them to agree to something small, like a site inspection, and they will have an easier time agreeing to something larger, like booking the event. The original research on this technique was published in 1966 by two Stanford researchers who emulated door-to-door sales people to test customers' willingness to agree to small and large requests. The results showed that a series of small requests, followed by the large requests worked more effectively than a large request at the outset. Building the relationship and getting the client to say "yes" is best accomplished by layering the requests.
At the walk-through, start by showing the marquee space, even if this will not work for their budget or event needs. This is the "face in the door technique." If the client sees the most expensive space first, the smaller classroom will not seem as expensive. It sets a context and range on the spaces. Moreover, they may have an event in the future, where the grand space will work. Since the client came out to see the site, it is important to show the range of possibilities. Realtors or car sales people often use the "face in the door" technique. First, the customers are taken to see the grandest house for sale in the area or most expensive car on the lot. Then they are shown house or car that fits more closely with their budget. By going from most expensive downward, the less expensive item does not seem as out of reach.
The differentiation technique of negotiation is very helpful in event sales. Devise a few key talking points that differentiate the University's facility from the competition in town. Perhaps there is an open-air patio included with the rental, free parking, or catering kitchen that allows outside food service providers. In Las Vegas, the university competes against high-end hotels that offer world-class amenities and casinos. By saying the college is "an educated choice" away from the commotion of the tourist attraction, clients can concentrate on their meeting and not wander into the casino and miss the presentation. This sets the facility apart from the competition.