Your GDS sales rep's bark is much worse than his bite

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Q: Our agencys GDS contract runs out at the end of next month. Am I correct to assume that I have waited so long that it is now too late to negotiate a favorable new contract by obtaining competing offers from other vendors and playing one off against another?  Wont I be forced to take what my current vendor is coming in to offer next week? Am I out of time to get advice from colleagues and advisers about what the best deals look like? In other words, by not starting the contracting process earlier, havent I backed myself into a corner?

A: The answer to all of your questions is, Hell, no. Never assume that it is too late to negotiate a top-notch GDS deal. Never assume that you need to act before your current contract runs out. You can still take all the time you need.

In 22 years of advising about GDS deals, I have never known a vendor to cut off a travel agency at the end of its three or five-year contract.

While the sales rep may threaten a cutoff, the threat is just a high-pressure sales tactic, and you would make a mistake by falling for it.

Even if your present GDS contract does not provide for month-to-month continuation after the end of the term, you can count on your vendors cooperation in keeping your present arrangement in effect for many more months, as long as your vendor has any hope of getting a new contract eventually.

So remember that when vendors remind you about how soon your contract is going to end, they are reminding you about a business opportunity, not threatening your business.

Another high-pressure sales tactic that I have heard about lately is this: This offer expires at the end of this month, and after that we will not be making any more offers until the major airlines have all renewed their contracts with us.

Actually, just the opposite has been true: GDS offers continue to improve because the vendors want to tie you up to long-term contracts now more than ever.

So just ignore the supposed expiration date, even if it is written right on the cover of the offer package.

A third time-related tactic is one used by incoming vendors when you are leaning toward conversion: You need to sign today because I need to order all the equipment, which takes at least six weeks to install, and then well need to schedule training classes, which we will need to finish before your high season (or before your current vendor shuts you off).

The truth is that what little equipment you need can be installed in a few days, if you insist on it as a condition to signing the new contract. And what little training is needed can be finished a few weeks after that.

When you get time pressure from a GDS vendor, you can just turn the tables and tell the vendor that you will not consider any offer with any deadline associated with it. I guarantee that the sales reps will back off.

In fact, go further. Give all vendors a deadline by which they must respond in writing with their original as well as follow-up offers.

Make the GDS vendors scramble for your business.

Mark Pestronk is a Washington-based attorney specializing in travel law. To contact Pestronk directly, e-mail him at [email protected].

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