Thursday, March 14, 2013

5 Ways to Enhance Your Next RFP Response

If you are a hospitality marketing representative, I know you answer a lot of Request For Proposals (RFPs). And even though "dates and rates" are still part of the process, they are not the total package. Think instead of your RFP response as a way to tell your story. Yes, it will take more time to accomplish this, but in the end, it will hopefully yield more group business to your destination.

Here are five things planners ask for, the usual hospitality response, and tips to enhance it:

PLANNER PICK #1: Event Date With a Few Alternatives
TYPICAL RESPONSE: Most sales personnel look at the dates and either respond to the proposal or throw it in the trash because they do not have those dates available.
ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Discuss what dates you do have available. Try to determine if there is any flexibility with their company or association. Let them know there are savings to their bottom line if they can be flexible. If they still won't budge, thank them for their time and then discard the paperwork.

PLANNER PICK #2: Number of Attendees, Meeting Rooms and Sleeping Rooms Required
TYPICAL RESPONSE: If your convention center or hotel isn't large enough to accommodate the group, the RFP is discarded.
ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Perhaps you need to know more about the meeting before your respond. How many meeting rooms do they need and what sizes? Can you spread the meeting over several spaces instead of just one? If your hotel has the meeting space but not the hotel rooms, perhaps you work with another hotel next door on overflow?

PLANNER PICK #3: Cities, States, and Areas of Interest
TYPICAL RESPONSE: Looking at the cities the planner is considering either has you slumped in your seat or feeling you have a great probability of a win.
ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: Looking at all the other cities and states, put together a plus and minus page compared to the competition. Tell your story by accentuating the pluses. Use referral quotes but most importantly tell the planner why they want to meet in your city. Think of it this way: give them the story that makes it easy for them to convince to their boss.

PLANNER PICK #4: Venue Requirements
TYPICAL RESPONSE: Just the facts ma'am and lots of them. Number of meeting rooms, dimensions, sleeping room types, urban, suburban, or resort hotel. Amenities. Distance from the airport and shuttle service. Restaurants and bars on premise.
ENHANCED RESPONSE: Find out more about the group. What are their interests? Are they bringing their spouse or significant other? Do they want to be downtown or out near the airport? What do they like to do after the meeting? Again, tell a story about your property and what makes it special, but tailor your response to their needs.

PLANNER PICK #5: Food and Beverage
TYPICAL RESPONSE: Usually the hotel staff includes every choice available to the planner or a very short listing of food and beverage choices. Neither alternative is particularly helpful.
ENHANCED ALTERNATIVE: If the planner is making a site visit, ask them to sample some of the menu ideas your banquet staff has come up with. If this is not possible, put together alternative menu choices for the days they are there. Determine if the group wants plated entrees or buffet style. Include healthy choices and local influences, including your beverage choices.

In summary, it is important to cover the facts about your property and destination in your RFP, but equally important is the ability to sell it. Tell your story and don't be afraid to take risks. Sell the benefits of going to your destination, convention center, and hotel. Contact the CVB for more information.

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