How to negotiate with a venue

Written by Paul May 21 2015

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How to negotiate with a venue

Found the perfect venue but it’s a bit out of your budget? Feel like you’re being charged too much? Want to save a bit of money? Then it’s time to start negotiating.

The first step is to not be afraid of trying to negotiate, most venues now expect it and many account for it in the initial price given, meaning you would be mad to not at least try. You could even try using a venue finding service, such as wefindvenues.com, which means that you can hand the responsibility to a third party.

Prepare - Before going into negotiations make sure you are fully briefed about the event, the venue and the content of their proposal. Knowing the costs inside out and exactly what you require is paramount.

Outline what your demands are - There’s no point in trying to cut a deal if you don’t know what you’re after. If price is key then work out the ideal price and the bare minimum of discount that will be acceptable. If you’re more concerned about payment terms then figure out the schedule that you need, the schedule that you’d really like and the schedule that you could just about deal with. Work out what are your ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’.

Decide if successful negotiation is a deal maker - Are you negotiating because you can’t pay what they are currently asking, or are you negotiating to save a bit of money? Either way you need to decide what your minimum requirements are to move forward and be willing to walk away if these aren’t met.

Think what you could give away in exchange - Successful negotiations are often a two way street. Obviously your key bargaining chip is that you will book with the venue, however it’s worth looking at other ‘bonuses’ you can offer. For example you could agree payment terms that were more favourable for the venue, i.e. a larger deposit, or offer free sponsorship of your event to the venue.

Understand the position you are in - Are you booking a meeting room for 6 delegates 8months in advance? If so you really won’t have much to work with. However if you are booking a large conference, a very last minute meeting or an ‘off-peak’ event, then you have more to bring to the table, and as such are in a better position to negotiate.

Understand the sales teams needs - In order to negotiate effectively it’s best to understand what the venue requires and the pressures the sales teams face. Most have lofty revenue targets to meet, this is a top line figure which means that negotiating on the contents of the package will be easier than trying to get them to bring the overall price down.

Understand where venues make their money - Trying to negotiate on a £200 projector that the venue hires in at £195 won’t get you far. You need to look through the itemised contract to see where the costs are. Most venues make their money on food, drink & room hire. The margins on food & beverage can be huge, it’s not uncommon to see jugs of orange juice being charged at £20+, when the cost price would be well under £2.

Go for ‘Value Adds’ - As discussed venues don’t like lowering prices, but they do like giving the clients value-adds. If you’re happy with the cost but want more value for money then here’s where you can do well. Go for upgraded everything; teas/coffee breaks with pastries rather than biscuits, higher standard of bedrooms, free breakout rooms, upgraded lunches, these are all easily achievable.

Choose your medium - Email, phone or face-to-face? Which you prefer will depend on your personality but ultimately they all have pros and cons. Email is good because you can perhaps be slightly cheekier also keep track on negotiations. On the downside it is easier for venues to turndown, or even ignore, the request. If you have then confidence face-to-face can be most productive, not least because unless you’re a real ass you will have formed a stronger bond with the sales staff than via phone or email. When negotiating in person stay calm and remember to avoid gushing speeches, put your point and price to them and then wait, he who speaks first, loses. Silence is golden.

Bring collateral - It’s more than likely that you will have approached other venues for proposals, use these as bargaining chips when negotiating. Just make sure that the venues are direct competitors, i.e. if you’re negotiating with a 5* hotel they won’t be too concerned that the local Travel Lodge has offered a lower rate.

Make an outrageous offer - Don’t be afraid of going in with a very optimistic offer. If you are going to work to establish a middle ground you want to start as far away as possible. Of course there needs to be some sensibilities here, going in at £1 isn’t conducive to healthy negotiation. But if you’ve been quoted a DDR of £75, going in at £50 would be a reasonable start.

Play it cool - When going for a show round of a venue that you may need to negotiate with at a later stage try and stay reserved. Exclaiming ‘I love it, it’s absolutely perfect and we must have it at any price” may hinder you somewhat down the road.

and finally….

Don’t be a nightmare… - They say that the customer is always right, however if during the negotiations you are overly demanding, rude, and generally a displeasure to work with, don’t be surprised if the venue doesn’t budge much! Stay polite and friendly, and show them what a pleasure you will be to work with.

Do you require a venue for a conference or event anywhere in the UK and want to easily make an enquiry? If so click here to make a free enquiry and see up to the minute availability and prices for suitable venues.