With hotels facing so many challenges due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), it’s never been more important to seize every opportunity for request for proposal (RFP) success. Having an effective, efficient RFP process is essential to increasing your chances of winning this business.
This blog will explain how hoteliers can create a process that will help when it comes to RFP success. It will also make winning planner business, improving relationships and generating repeat business more likely.
What is an RFP?
An RFP or Request for Proposal is a solicitation from an organisation to potential suppliers. In this case, the RFP is to procure event space, hotel guest rooms or food and beverages. In the RFP, planners include specific event requirements and wants. Possible requirements might include:
- Company information
- Market segment
- Length of event
- Meeting space requirements
- Breakout sessions
- Attendee demographic and volume
- Budget guidelines
- Reason for sending the RFP
- Type of event
- Whether it’s one-off or recurring
- Event objectives
- Proposal deadline
Event planners would typically send these to competing venues and narrow down their choices based on what the hotels or venues can provide.
If an RFP response stands out from the rest, it's likely that a planner could accept the hotel or venue’s offer and sign a contract straight away.
Why do planners send RFPs?
Most event planners send RFPs because they are meeting in a new city or would like to host an event at a venue or hotel they haven’t used in the past. They may also be looking to move properties due to changes in event requirements. Perhaps the event size has been adjusted, or maybe the budget has been slashed. Maybe the format has been overhauled.
Typically, a planner wouldn’t send an RFP to a hotel they already have a track record with, to drive costs down, as this is considered unethical.
Step 1: RFP success depends on how agile you are
RFPs are bound to come to you. But the quantity and quality of RFPs you receive will depend on how well you market your property. Here are some pointers:
- Your profile on the Cvent Supplier Network, for example, should be detailed with multiple, high-quality images, meeting space details and as much information you can provide.
- According to the 2019 UK Edition Planner Sourcing Report, a quarter of all UK planners (25%) submit an RFP based on a venue’s available photography.
- 45% of profiles on the Cvent Supplier Network have a profile completeness score of 90+. 78% of total RFP volume is received just by these properties and 82% of RFPs are awarded to these properties.
Step 2: Respond fast and well
Depending on the company you are preparing an RFP for and the size of your own, response deadlines will vary. However, with so many properties competing, time is of the essence.
You need to be agile and quick to respond, without compromising the quality of your RFP response. That’s why it's so important to have an efficient, streamline RFP process that will help you win business as RFPs comes in.
Make sure there's enough time for your team to gather all requested data and go through a couple of revisions before the deadline.
Being prepared will also allow your venue or hotel to shine, as you’ll have more time in which to respond and hopefully delight a potential planner.
If planners see that you are quick to respond, this will give them a good indication of how responsive you’re likely to be during the event itself.
33% of travel managers cited no, slow or incomplete RFP responses as a key challenge when negotiating with hotels.
The most successful RFP responses consist of clear and concise solutions. “Insight Selling" techniques to reveal solutions to problems the customer didn't even know they had.
Step 3: Prioritise the right RFPs with technology
When heaps of RFPs come in, it’s hard to know which ones to respond to first. The last thing you want is for time spent prioritising to eat away at your time spent responding. RFP management technology can hugely help sales teams, by scoring leads as they come in.
This means that you can identify and prioritise the most profitable business first, reducing your response times from 2+ weeks to 24 hours. And this means more time to dedicate to responses.
Step 4: Prepare templates for different types of RFPs
Another thing that RFP management technology is great for is templates.
Cut time spent responding by having different templates prepared, with high-quality, well-written responses. Dynamic fields will help you tailor the proposal to the planner in question.
For example, the language and fields of a wedding RFP template will differ to a corporate travel template. This will help you provide each planner or travel manager with the correct information, in the format that works best for them.
Step 5: Tailor your response
A great RFP process involves personalisation and thought into who you are responding to.
While templates might be handy, you want to ensure each response is tailored and personalised for the planner or travel manager. They’ll be able to sniff a copy-and-paste job from miles away, so ensure you include details specific to them.
Use your CRM to add personal touches. Your past relationship with the planner, requirements, or why they took their business elsewhere in the past are good things to know.
If the information included in your proposals can be found online, it isn’t personalised enough.
Step 6: Go the extra mile
Your sales team should always be thinking about how they can provide extra value. Your RFP response is the perfect time to show planners or travel managers that you’re on their side and ready to step up for them.
Providing alternate dates to book with your venue and offering concessions and promotions is a great way to go that extra mile and will help them in their decision-making process. It may even lead to repeat-business.
What better way to show planners that you care than to follow up? Calling the planner or corporate travel manager after sending a proposal to check if they received it will show them that you are ready and available to answer any additional questions.
Again, this will reaffirm a sense that you are responsive and quick to help when needed.
Thoughts to live by:
The RFP process is a team effort
As events can be complex and no one person will have all the answers, you’ll need multiple team members to contribute.
One person from each of the teams the RFP will affect should be responsible for gathering all the information needed for the response. Hold regular meetings to stay on track.
It's also crucial that your team understands the RFP process and that responses are consistent across team members.
The best way to ensure everyone is on the same page is by training them. Hold regular sessions where you take them through best practices and tips.
Understanding your planners will improve your responses
One of the best ways to provide impeccable service to planners is to understand their key challenges, priorities and responsibilities.
Whether a planner is sourcing a venue for an event or for room nights, they appreciate professionalism, excellent communication, speed and efficiency.
44% of planners surveyed in Cvent’s 2019 Global Planner Sourcing Report cited communication problems as a reason for choosing to not submit an RFP to a venue.
In addition, Cvent’s 2020 Travel Managers Report (UK Edition) reported that a majority (51%) of travel managers said poor service and unprofessionalism (pre and post-stay) was a top reason for excluding or removing hotels from their travel programme.
Improving your Venue's RFP process will help you drive sales and nurture relationships
Next up, find out 10 simple ways to increase hotel revenue.