Break down the psychological barriers that can hamper a good deal

While it’s easy to see negotiation like a football coach—“x’s” and “o’s” colliding with each other, with one side scoring a touchdown or the other side crushing the ball carrier into the turf—truly successful negotiating more often involves breaking down barriers real or imagined.

“The biggest thing with negotiation is that most people go into it assuming a battle, so they mentally prepare a ‘Why you should give me what I’m asking for’ [attitude], so this sets up a ying-yang philosophy—a me against you adversarial relationship,” says negotiation expert Anne Warfield, CEO of Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Impression Management Professionals ( “When you think about that, the underlying assumption is they’re not going to want to do this, or they’re going to have some other trick up their sleeve. So it gets into a game.”

Warfield will present her “ProGOtiations: How to Get to More Yes With Less Stress” seminar at HSMAI’s MEET Mid-America,  in addition to her “How to say the right thing at the right time” program.

“You need to see the negotiation from a higher level, so you can remove any barriers and influence outcome,” she says. “Instead of just calling up a hotel to ask about rates, think of it from the hotel’s position—what do they want to accomplish? I believe that negotiations are not a stumbling block; they’re actually building blocks for a relationship.”

A key is to keep an open mind, according to Warfield. Creating a dialogue with the person sitting across the negotiation table from you often results in untapped opportunities manifesting themselves.

“Put your heads together to come up with things both sides would’ve never come up with alone, but provide a big benefit to both,” she says. “One of the big flips is people will go into a negotiation looking for the barriers. What we train people to do is to go in looking for opportunities. I automatically assume in every negotiation that there’s a better outcome than what I’m visualizing. I look at it as a brainstorming session, so I can go into it excited rather than apprehensive.”

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, both meeting planners and suppliers should look at the whole package: guest rooms, meeting rooms, equipment rental and food. Where there may not be give in one area, often another area opens up in terms of flexibility.

“As we put this package together, how do I talk to that hotel about the complete package?” she asks. “They may not be able to give on equipment; they may not be able to do a lot with food, or maybe food but not on the rooms. I don’t know what it is, but there has to be some sort of magic combination.”

Of course, planners need to enter into the negotiation with a concise history of their group, such as the additional charges the group made during a previous meeting at a different hotel.

“You can say, ‘The last hotel we booked, this group booked an additional $25,000 of services,” she says. “Or the average salary of my group is $150,000, so we can put together some packages that could bring you some incremental income.

“When you get down to it, it’s not either/or thinking,” she continues. “It’s always ‘and.’”

According to Warfield, some very key concepts to remember include the following:

·         Go in assuming the best of the other person.

·         Stay in ‘curiosity’ (assume partnership).

·         Tie what you’re talking to to the goals of their venue.

·         Don’t use the word “negotiation.” Only use “brainstorm.” The term negotiation, mentally, automatically triggers the brain to think someone’s going to win and someone’s going to use.

·         Know as many of the facts as you possibly can. Think of it from that broader level, not a narrow level.