What makes a request for proposal (RFP) response stand out to planners? For starters, you need to show that your venue provides the best bang for their buck and goes above and beyond when compared to the competition. Read on to learn what makes up a high-quality RFP response — and see an RFP response example — so you can entice planners and win more business.
First off, know when you should respond to RFPs
When it comes to RFPs, speed is imperative. According to the Australia edition of Cvent’s 2019 Planner Sourcing Report, 46% planners expect speed when engaging with venues stressing the importance of meeting response deadlines to win more business. They want hoteliers to be visible, responsive, and precise during the RFP process. To follow-up quickly on every lead, quality RFP management tools help organise and expedite your responses. It’s also smart to create a go-to response for quick RFPs (when the event is small-scale and planners only need a few venue spaces).
By necessity, RFP responses will have some rejections in the mix. Ask yourself these questions to make fast work of determining which RFPs require a rejection and which call for a detailed proposal:
- Is the RFP genuine? Look for competitor language which can mean the RFP issuer already has a venue they want to work with, and are only sending out an RFP to follow protocol.
- Will the event planner issuing the RFP entertain questions? If not, perhaps their choice is already predetermined. Getting answers to questions helps you craft a customised response, and also helps build the all-important relationship with the issuer.
- How does your lead scoring software rank the RFP? If there’s little to no chance of converting the opportunity, it would be wiser to focus on pre-qualified leads.
- Is the scheduled event date a good fit for your venue and staff? Some RFPs are great revenue generators during slow periods, whereas others might test the limits of your staff, facilities, and subcontractors at busy times.
- Have you worked with the event planner before? Having a relationship with the issuer gives you a competitive advantage in terms of understanding their needs.
- Has your venue successfully hosted this type of event before? If so, this can give you a leg-up on the competition.
- Does the RFP provide you enough time to submit a response? Larger event RFPs with a window of 2 to 3 weeks for responses present a valuable opportunity to highlight your differentiators.
- Will booking the event make good financial sense? Weigh the potential revenue and pursue those opportunities which provide solid returns on investment of your resources.
Communication is a key component of relationship marketing to event planners. We dive into the crucial elements of RFP proposals below, but take time to craft your rejection responses as well. That means personalising automated responses and writing thoughtful individual responses to VIP planners of large-scale events. In all cases, rejection responses should be friendly and professional, and should share your appreciation that the planner reached out. For good measure, share your rejection responses with colleagues and planners you have strong relationships with to ensure the tone is just right.
The 7 sections of an effective RFP response: A template for success
Clear writing makes all the difference between RFPs that land the sale and RFPs prospective clients ignore. Finding the right balance of detailed information and brevity is essential in your response to an RFP. Here are the must-have pieces of the puzzle:
1. Table of contents
This section gives the planner an easy cross-reference for sharing with key stakeholders and decision makers.
Key elements of an RFP response table of contents:
- Branding. A table of contents is fairly self-explanatory (and we have an example below), but it’s important to include your venue branding at the top.
In fact, your branding, venue name, address, and contact information should be featured on every page of your RFP response. The planner is likely dealing with scores of competing responses, so take every opportunity to keep your site top of mind.
2. Cover letter
This is an opportunity to connect with the event planner while giving context to who you are and what you can do for them.
Key elements of an outstanding cover letter:
- A friendly, professional voice. Planners will work closely with you for months and more in the run-up to their events. They want to feel confident your venue will be easy to work with and meet their needs. Make sure the tone of your cover letter is the written equivalent of a friendly in-person greeting.
- Offers a valuable snapshot. You’ll offer details in your executive summary, but your cover letter is your calling card. In addition to amiability, your cover letter should convey your experience, your understanding of their needs, and your ability to meet them.
- Brevity. Don’t ramble in your cover letter; keep it friendly, succinct, and to the point.
3. Executive summary
Let the planner know you understand their unique needs by showing you read the RFP thoroughly and have done your due diligence and research.
Key elements of an exceptional executive summary:
- Addresses their specifications head-on. Keep your focus on their “asks” in your executive summary. Are they prioritising a venue in an exciting locale? Specify that a popular landmark is within walking or rideshare distance of your venue, and that you offer shuttles to the site every hour on the hour.
- Sticks to one page. Though your executive summary gets more specific than the cover letter, it shouldn’t run beyond one page. At a glance, the planner should see that you meet their must-have requirements.
- Bullets. Long, uninterrupted sentences are a fast way to lose your reader. Maintain their attention and help them absorb the information by breaking up the copy with bullet points.
- An image (optional). Does your property have state-of-the-art screens in a large auditorium, or small breakout areas designed for business travellers with outlets and a nearby coffee station? If your property meets one of their high-level requirements, go ahead and illustrate that with a high-resolution photo.
4. Deliverables and strategy
The nuts and bolts of your response, this section outlines the venue specifications, amenities, included services, and add-ons. Everything is spelt out, so the planner knows whether the property meets all of their requirements.
Key elements of the deliverables and strategy section:
- Categorisation. Cover each and every specification in the planner’s RFP, broken down into logical categories, such as F&B, venue space, and event technology.
- The “how.” Within each category, detail how you’re going to meet their needs. If they’re planning a closing-night gala, share that you have an award-winning catering staff 20 people strong. If they expect a tightly-packed event schedule, share how you offer an event concierge and tech support as a backup for their team.
- How you don’t meet their needs. Very few venues fulfil all the specifications of every RFP they receive. Be crystal clear about the requirements you cannot fulfil. It’s possible they are negotiable. Also, planners appreciate honesty and are more likely to consider your venue for future events.
5. Itemised event project summary
Here, you’ll break down the price by deliverable and clarify included services and add-ons.
Key elements of an outstanding itemised event project summary:
- Transparency. The study of Australia planners mentioned above reveals that planners appreciate and prefer venues that ensure transparent and accurate pricing in their RFP responses. Doing so would improve the chances of winning the RFP. Transparency builds trust for this event and possible future events.
- Categories and sub-categories. One food and beverage line item isn’t adequate. You can include F&B as a category with a coinciding “total cost,” but then you’ll need to detail what goes into that price. For example, give the cost of the morning coffee break, the grab-and-go snacks for breakout sessions, and the closing sit-down dinner. This gives planners a sense that there’s wiggle room should they face budget issues.
This section is your chance to recap what makes your venue perfect for the planner’s event.
Key elements of an itemised qualifications section:
- About us. This is the copy you use to describe yourself on your website and in marketing materials and press releases.
- Similar events you’ve hosted. Include the names of the events, and the names and contact information for the planners. This demonstrates experience with events of their size, scope, and specifications, as well as confidence in the venue.
- Awards and certifications. Highlight any relevant awards your venue has won or certifications you have that may put you ahead of any competition.
- Names and titles of your core team. This gives the reader the opportunity to research your core team on LinkedIn and talk to connections who’ve worked with them.
Make it easy for the event planner to choose you by giving them documentation to sign; not all responses may have this, so it could be a strong differentiator from your competition.
Key element of an RFP response agreement:
- The signature line. Make sure the planner understands this page is a contract. Many venues book up fast — a planner impressed with your RFP proposal may want to make it official immediately.
RFP response example: Zooming in on the key elements
There are many different things to keep in mind when responding to RFPs, but what does an actual response look like? Here, we’ve created an RFP response example for a hypothetical conference for executives in the retail industry. The pieces of the puzzle that matter the most include a properly formatted table of contents, cover letter, executive summary, and qualifications.
Hotel venue: Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre
Prospective client: Samantha Forest, Planning Director, Southeast Retail Executives Association Annual Meeting and Exhibition
RFP response example: Table of contents
- Table of contents
- Cover letter
- Executive summary
- General requirements
- Project plan
- Main ballroom
- Breakout rooms
- Food and beverage
- Area attractions
- Project summary
- About us
- Relevant experience
RFP response example: Cover letter
Dear Ms. Forest:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your request for proposal (RFP) for the Southeast Retail Executives Association Annual Meeting and Exhibition. We are excited about the opportunity to help you make this a productive and enjoyable meeting for every attendee.
As you review this response you will see our facilities and services meet all of the requirements of your compliance matrix. Your attendees will enjoy unfettered access to conference events and exhibits, with numerous options for individual or small group meetings in our quiet break-out rooms or at our relaxing hotel restaurant and bar. For those who wish to network during down-time, our knowledgeable concierge can help arrange off-site visits to our city’s many unique cultural and entertainment attractions.
With our depth of experience hosting similar events outlined in the qualifications section, we believe a partnership with us will help you exceed your conference goals. We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Michael J. Sutton
Director of Events
Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre
Wilmington, NC 28502
(910) 555-4444 (main)
(910) 555-7777 (cell)
Why it works: This example works because of the detailed, no-nonsense approach to meeting the client’s needs. Highlighting the ability to meet attendee networking demands — both on-site and out on the town — in the table of contents, and reinforcing it in the cover letter, provides the right amount of personalisation without being overbearing.
RFP response example: Executive summary
Your ability to keep your member companies competitive in the retail industry depends on well-trained, motivated executives working with their retail teams to reach business goals.
The Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre is the perfect venue to help you achieve this critical objective. Our state-of-the-art facilities and professional staff will provide your attendees with the amenities and service needed to enjoy a purposeful experience.
Our background and expertise hosting similar meetings enables us to provide you with:
- Capabilities to host up to 1,500 attendees in a variety of meeting and exhibit spaces.
- Event planning and implementation from pre-planning to close of event including floor plans, event expense report, timeline, and functions; and interactions with service providers such as audio-visual, IT, and general service contractors.
- Complete food and beverage services provided by our in-house caterer.
- On-site accommodations in our 280-room hotel with special rates for group booking.
Choosing the Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre for your event will provide you with the right environment to help your attendees improve their skills, while rewarding them with world-class accommodations, meeting spaces, food, and activities. Make your Southeast Retail Executives Association Annual Meeting and Exhibition inspiring, productive, and memorable.
Why it works: The introductory paragraphs provide an overview showing you understand the objectives and goals of the customer’s event. Transitioning quickly into the solutions, which are derived from customer needs detailed in the RFP, shows the customer you have the ability to meet their needs.
RFP response example: Qualifications section
Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre sets the standard for excellence when it comes to hosting seamless events. We offer organisations like yours a unique combination of high-quality facilities, hospitality service expertise, and experience with your industry sector. Our team of highly-skilled professionals will make your conference memorable, meaningful, and productive for your guests.
Hosting successful events is the core of what the Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre is all about. Our 280-room hotel provides modern conveniences in relaxing one- and two-bedroom rooms and suites, while our Wi-Fi-enabled meeting and exhibit spaces welcome 15 to 1,500 attendees at multiple events throughout the year. With our comfortable, spacious hotel restaurant and bar, in-house catering services, and a team of certified meeting planners, we can meet every attendee and exhibitor need while exceeding expectations.
- Annual Conference, Cape Maywood Car Dealers Association
This event included keynote breakfast and lunch presentations, educational seminars, networking, and committee meetings for 552 attendees. Meeting spaces included the main ballroom, the auditorium, conference rooms, and small breakout rooms.
Date of event: July 10-12, 2019
Customer reference contact info: Holly Sabre, Marketing & Events Manager; CMCDA; (910) 555-0111; [email protected]
- Southern Home Design Show
Tradeshow and conference for 86 exhibitors and 1,272 attendees in the home improvement and interior design industry featuring sales and educational seminars. Meeting spaces included exhibit hall and conference rooms.
Date of event: March 12-14, 2019
Customer reference contact info: Sonja Wolfe, General Manager; Design Shows Unlimited; (828) 555-0191; [email protected]
- Annual Meeting & Beer Festival, National Craft Brewing Guild
Public festival and association conference featuring 60 craft brewers and 1,400 attendees. Committee meetings, beer sampling, entertainment, and educational seminars. Main event and seminars held in exhibit hall, meetings in conference rooms.
Date of event: October 11-12, 2019
Customer reference contact info: Dave Walden, President; NCBG; (910) 555-0177; [email protected]
The Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre has an experienced event-services team dedicated to meeting the needs of attendees and supporting your goals. We take pride in our hiring and training practices to ensure the highest levels of professionalism and quality hospitality. It is our pleasure to introduce you to some of the individuals who will be supporting your upcoming conference:
- General Manager Ken Bailey, [email protected]
- Director of Food & Beverage Deborah Madden, [email protected]
- Director of Operations Greg Fairbanks, [email protected]
- Sales Manager Amber Robertson, [email protected]
CATERING SALES TEAM
- Catering Sales Manager Jody Summers, [email protected]
- Executive Chef Caitlynn Gilbert, [email protected]
- Food & Beverage Manager Cooper Garritt, [email protected]
EVENT SERVICES TEAM
For 22 years, the Hillsdale Hotel & Conference Centre has been contracting with responsible event support providers. We maintain the highest standards for our event partners like you and stand behind these quality businesses:
River Frost Flowers – Provided floral services for more than 200 social and business events with between 100 and 1,000 guests. www.riverfrostflowers.com
Quarter Moon DJ & Event Music – Provided DJ, live music, and background music for more than 250 events across our venue spaces. www.quartermooneventmusic.com
Why it works: Transparency and brevity are key here. Succinct details about your experience from previously published material supported by references for similar customer events demonstrate you’ve done this before. Including high-level event team members and your vendor partners inspires confidence and gives planners a sense that you’re ready for complex events — and the inevitable challenges they involve.
Speed up response time with RFP management software
Now that you know what goes into a winning RFP response and have gone over an RFP response example, discover how RFP management tools can streamline the process. Your team will respond to more and better-qualified leads, improve the quality of your responses, and help your bottom- and top-line growth.