Imagine this scenario: You're trying to book a hotel for an upcoming meeting, but your hotel salesperson keeps questioning whether you really want to be in that locale, and in that type of hotel. It gets to the point where you feel she doesn’t want your meeting at her hotel. So you come right out and ask—and she admits that the hotel is in need of renovation and it likely won’t be done by your meeting’s date. In effect, she talks you out of booking her hotel. So, you go somewhere else.

Does that make her a bad saleswoman?

Not to James Vachon, associate director, corporate meetings and conventions, Millennium: The Takeda Oncology Company in Cambridge, Mass. In fact, when this happened to him, he became one of the salesperson’s biggest fans because she put the needs of his meeting first. Good negotiations start with being willing to listen to each other’s needs, he told the audience during a session at the Pharmaceutical Meeting Management Forum, co-sponsored by Medical Meetings and The Center for Business Intelligence last March in Orlando.

It just goes to show that even in this era of preferred suppliers and electronic requests for proposals, it’s still all about the relationship between buyer and supplier, he added. While it is still vital to negotiate for what you need, buyers need to stay flexible and hoteliers have to restrain themselves from trying to force a piece of business that’s not a good fit.