My good friend Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, president of Bondurant Consulting, recently conducted a workshop session around improving the electronic request for proposal (eRFP) process between planners and hotel suppliers.
In the session — held at the Financial & Insurance Conference Planners Annual Conference at the Hilton Waikoloa Village in Hawaii — she asked:
“Can the eRFP process between meeting planners and hoteliers be improved?”
Of course, the answer was a resounding “Yes!” — and she generously shared the results of the interactive discussion. Here are her 12 tips (with some additional commentary from yours truly as well):
Tip #1: Indicate how many hotels are receiving your eRFP.
Kevin: Hotels have consistently said that they will give the best proposals when they know they have an actual shot at winning the business. The bottom line: If you’re sending out an eRFP to more than 10 hotels, don’t expect the best pricing proposals to come back — if the hotel responds at all.
Tip #2: Provide an accurate due date.
Some technology tools automatically default to require a response within 24 hours! If you really don’t need it for two weeks, let the hotel know so they don’t have to rush unnecessarily.
Kevin: It is also true — based on our data — that the quicker the response is from the bidding hotel, the more likely that hotel wins the business.
Tip #3: Include your concession wish list with the eRFP — and prioritize it!
If you are requesting 15 possible concessions, be sure to list them in order of importance and identify the ones that are potential deal-breakers.
Tip #4: If you have a standard contract addendum, submit it with the eRFP.
This allows the hotelier to know what they need to agree to up front — and avoids wasting everyone’s time if key terms and conditions are unworkable.
Kevin: This should be done 100% of the time in order to truly mitigate your risk.
Tip #5: Include the purpose of the meeting — such as team-building, strategy retreat or sales meeting.
Hotel suppliers say this information helps them customize their responses and more accurately meet the planner’s objectives.
Kevin: Identifying the audience for your meeting may actual improve the amenities the hotels offer you. One hotel told me they upped the quality of the meals for an executive retreat — because they wanted repeat business and goodwill from a well-known corporation’s senior executives.
Tip #6: Include your meeting history and note how the selected property fits your pattern.
Kevin: By having true SMM technology in place to enable your SMMP, you are able to provide historical data in a quick and easy way. You would be surprised at how many self-proclaimed SMM technologies do not house historical data. (If you’re still using multiple Excel spreadsheets, good luck!)
Tip #7: Be transparent about why you are declining the business.
Don’t make the planner guess. Are you turning down the group because of a lack of meeting space or sleeping rooms, or does the meeting use too much space compared to its room block? Your decision might have to do with the pattern of business, other competitors in-house, or any number of things. Whatever it is, planners would like to know.
Tip #8: Provide a proposal specific to the meeting.
Don’t be generic. And by all means, double-check to be sure you’re not cutting and pasting details from another client’s eRFP. (Yes, this happens!)
Tip #9: Offer alternatives.
If you can’t provide exactly what the planner has requested, make your own suggestions. Planners are open to new ideas — if the alternatives make sense for their meeting objectives.
Tip #10: Close the loop with the hotels.
If you decide against a property, communicate the reasons — such as price, not the best fit for the program, the preferred hotel was available, second-option status was not a possibility, alternative dates were not workable, etc.
Tip #11: Heed the deadlines.
If you work with an internal support department (such as legal) in the contracting process, give them a due date well in advance of the signing deadline. With availability of prime meeting space getting tighter, you don’t want to lose your first option because you missed the contract due date!
Tip #12: And the best advice of all, no matter which side of the aisle you’re on: Communicate clearly, in a timely manner, and transparently throughout the e-RFP process.
Thank you, Betsy — and your session audience — for reminding us what really matters when using SMM technology in an eRFP process!