Welcome to 2014, where it’s a seller’s market again. If you’re a supplier, you’re happy to be deluged with business, but for planners — yikes! During these periods, two of the biggest concerns for planners should be:
- The need to search further in advance for your preferred meeting dates.
- The need to make your RFPs stand out among all others.
We can’t help you convince your boss to give you more lead time on the events that will come your way, but we can offer some guidelines to help you get your request for proposals front and center on hotel sales desks. This list has been compiled with the help of actual real, live hotel salespeople:
1) Historical information about the proposed meeting
If your meeting has been held in the past, provide the group history, even if it varies slightly from what you’re now asking. Dates, rates, locations (include hotel [s] and city), number of attendees and notes about any outstanding conditions that may have impacted the outcome, i.e., “held during terrible snowstorm even after major airport closures” or “first year we announced new product rollout, so attendance was extremely high.” In short, provide anything to explain major differences between past pickup and future forecasts.
If your RFP is for a brand-new, never-held-before meeting, you still need to provide some notes such as “required attendance for all company divisions” or “four-city tour of new CEO” that will help sell your program to hotels. Yes, you read that correctly. In a seller’s market, the planner has to create interest in his or her meeting with every hotel approached. The more compelling your background information, the more attractive your business becomes.
2) A rough draft of the proposed itinerary
Don’t just say “lots of breakouts.” Take time to sketch out a brief agenda and make sure to mark it “DRAFT.” Even if you’re guessing and/or reading between the lines of what your boss may want, the draft will need to be done at some point. So do it early and give it to the hotels.
3) Clearly define your timelines and expectations
If you need a response yesterday, mark your RFP as urgent. But be forewarned, if a hotel jumps through hoops to respond, you’d better be prepared to give them an expeditious answer. Nothing seems to irritate hotels more than having their “we-turned-this-around-in-24-hours RFP” sit on a planner’s desk indefinitely. Since it’s a seller’s market, when you do get that RFP back, the hotel will have clearly laid out the terms and dates of their proposal. Procrastinating planners will probably not fare well with hotels inundated with RFPs.
In a perfect world, you’re sending your RFP to multiple properties that are similar in size and scope, so presumably certain factors will persuade you to choose one over another. Cut to the chase and let them know what’s most important to your company, whether it’s rates, preferred dates or spa services. You have hot buttons. Don’t keep them a secret.
5) Include a brief synopsis of your company whenever possible
If this isn’t already obvious, include who will attend and why, and provide your best estimate of important budget projections — like F&B — to get the hotel’s attention.
Finally, do your homework. Make sure your send your RFP to the person who covers your market. If you send it blind as in “To whom it may concern,” it will probably get the same impersonal attention in return. Sending it to a specific person, even if you’ve never met or spoken to this person, will get their attention. If you don’t know who to contact, call the sales department. Remember, personal attention is the first step in establishing a good relationship.
What are your RFP best practices? Please share your advice in the comment box below.