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Building Better RFPs

To be more strategic, it sometimes helps to slip your feet into someone else’s Birkenstocks. Trying to imagine another’s path can get us out of our habits and onto two-way streets, where we must pay attention to others on the road.

This sort of thinking can have definite payoffs when it comes to creating and distributing requests for proposals (RFPs). Tons of templates and dozens of distribution options have made creating an RFP more mechanized, yet there is no substitute for a meeting planner’s ability to think strategically about an RFP and include information that will make it more appealing to a supplier.

Cheryl Payne, senior director of accounts and global meeting management services at Meeting Sites Resource, spoke about strategic RFPs at this summer’s MPI World Education Congress.

Here are some tips she shared recently for meeting planners that want their RFPs to be more favorably received by hotels and other meeting venues.

Give a complete picture of the revenue your meeting brings.

The bottom line rules in business, so it is essential that you know how much revenue your meeting would potentially bring to a venue. Think far beyond the hotel rooms your group will book, said Payne. “The more details, the better. That is part of being strategic.”

Sleeping rooms are the No. 1 profit center; food and beverage is second. But several other expenditures are often overlooked, she said. They include the hotel restaurant and bar — personal meals, not a catered function — group activities, spa visits and treatments, rounds at the golf course and room service.

Even minibar purchases can have an impact. Consider some of Payne’s clients that ask the hotel to stock minibars with specific items their attendees like. That is a substantial revenue source for the hotel.

If you want to track all these numbers, Payne said, “advise your hotel in advance.” Then, with a complete history of your meeting revenues in hand, “you can be armed for the next time you do that meeting; your RFP can include all that information,” she said.

If sleeping rooms are out of kilter with meeting space, show that you can be flexible.

Are your needs for meeting space in line with the number of hotel rooms your group will book? Hotel sales teams aren’t happy when they see requests for large amounts of meeting space and a small number of guest rooms. These out-of-proportion RFPs “raise red flags,” said Payne. If you are faced with this issue, Payne said, “show how you can be a better partner by reusing meeting rooms for meals. I might note on the RFP that our general session space can be used for our meals by using crescent rounds during the general session,” Payne said. “Just being flexible will help sell your case.”

Make sure your RFP goes to the people who can help you most.

Putting your RFP in the right hands can make a big difference in its success. If you send a lot of business to one hotel chain, don’t send your RFP to a specific property’s sales manager, Payne said. Instead, send it to your global salesperson. “They will know the value of your overall business, not just for that particular meeting.”

Sending RFPs to convention and visitors bureaus can also pay off. Payne pointed out that CVBs can offer cash incentives like money back on the master account, discounted convention facility use and complimentary familiarization visits, for example.