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Latin America: Relationships


Posted on January 24, 2007

I recently had the opportunity of presenting on a panel at the annual PCMA meeting in Toronto.  It was a panel of heavy hitters in the industry... and me.  The topic was the Art of International Contracting, a very interesting topic for those who are looking to develop meetings around the world.  I focused my part of the presentation on... you guessed it... Latin America.  The other wonderful panelists that joined me were Carol Krugman who covered Asia/Pacific, Stephen Powell from Intercontinental Hotels who covered EMEA and the hotel side, and we were kept in check, I mean moderated, by Jim Goldberg.  It was interesting to see how different business negotiations can be in all parts of the world.  To me, Latin America still seems to be the most fascinating environment to work with.

When doing research for my presentation, I spoke with some of my sales reps in the region and asked them a few questions in regards to North American based planners and what they request that is just not so ordinary where they come from.  The most common response... too much detail.  Why are we so obsessed with the finer points in a contract?  In fact why are we so obsessed with having a 50 page contract, period.  North American planners are so enthralled with making sure that every single solitary point is within the contract that we don't seem to trust people much anymore.  What I have come to learn in working with LatAm is that the business ethic in the region is one of pride.  There are still so many places you can go where one's word is as good or better than anything written on paper.  It's like the days of old where a handshake really meant something.

Accepting someone's word is not automatic.  Confidence and trust is never just given... it has to be earned.  As such, relationship building is the most important thing that one could ever do when negotiating in a Latin American country.  Get to know the people you are working with.  Get to know the cultures.  Be inquisitive.  Ask about what there is for your group, what makes the destination so fascinating.  Now I am not saying get to know your sales managers on a very personal intimate level, but you are likely to make a friend along the way.  Doing business is not just about closing the deal.  It's about reputation.  It's about respect.  It's about doing what is mutually beneficial for all parties on more than a fiscal level.  If you work on building a great working relationship then you may find some nice surprises.  While the contract may state one thing, generally there is quite a bit of flexibility and hotels are happy to work out whatever is needed to assure that your group has a great experience.

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