Meeting planners know too well the feeling of being pressed for time and anxious to get to the next task at hand. While investigating potential venues for a future meeting you may be reluctant to engage in in-depth conversations or provide extensive details about your meeting from the start. Eager to move on to other pressing work, you send out your RFP (Request for Proposal) that includes basic rates, dates and space requirements. Sound somewhat familiar? Unfortunately, this method may be costing you in time, negotiating power, and securing the best competitive responses to your RFP.
How NOT Discussing Rates FIRST Will Yield the Best Results for Your RFP
Wait, what did we just say? Not discussing rates first will yield the best room rate quotes? Short answer: Yes! It may sound too good to be true however with the changing landscape of the RFP process, planners who choose to lay all their cards on the table, before discussing room rates, stand to forge the best possible negotiation position for themselves.
How? Over the last several years, the eRFP process has gone through some growing pains. Hotels are seeing triple digit increases in the number of RFP’s they are receiving, while planners are not always getting timely and competitive responses from hotels. Starting the RFP process with knowing who to work with and what to discuss before talking hotel room rates will ultimately yield you the best results.
Vital Pieces of Your RFP to Include Before Discussing Room Rate
It’s not that rate isn’t an important factor in the RFP process. But communicating the value of the meeting, having a complete and comprehensive RFP and communicating the major goals for the meeting will make the process less painful and time-consuming for the planner.
1. Revealing the Meeting’s Value Puts You in a Stronger Negotiation Position
No matter how large or small a meeting is, it has value and it’s important to provide all the information about it upfront, including the number and size of meetings held throughout the year. For example, imagine there are two meetings: Meeting A and Meeting B that have similar number of attendees and dates. Meeting A sent their RFP to a targeted selection of venues and provided a thorough and complete picture of their meeting, while Meeting B sent their RFP to 30-35 hotels and provided only basic information such as dates, rates and space requirements. Both meetings have around 100 attendees, yet, Meeting A also indicated food and beverage components, audio visual requirements, 2 years of complete history and that the 100 attendees happen to be CEO’s of other companies. By providing specific information about the meeting and its history, the planner helped to paint a stronger picture of the meeting for the hotels evaluating the RFP.
Next, the hotel receives both Meeting A and Meeting B RFP’s (along with many others that day) and is trying to decide which RFP’s to respond to with a competitive bid. Meeting A included a complete picture of the meeting and its value. The hotel feels comfortable in providing a competitive bid, having a thorough understanding of the meeting. Meanwhile, the planner of Meeting B will most likely spend extra time answering questions about the meeting, thus delaying a response and potentially losing the preferred dates they were going for.
Dawn Norman, CEO of Normand Productions recommends “providing a thorough and complete RFP from the beginning, planners will bring some clout to their program. If a hotel doesn’t have all the information about a meeting from the start, they aren’t able to understand its true value and will have a hard time making a bid for the business. What happens? Planners prevent themselves from being in the best negotiating position.”Key takeaway: Providing a meeting’s value from the beginning will pay off with competitive and timely responses, a stronger negotiation position and a better process for everyone.
2. The Information Shared Upfront Ultimately Saves Planners Time
Sending an RFP with more detailed information will not only save a planner time, it will ensure they get exactly what they want for their meeting. Some planners may be reluctant to provide all their meeting information upfront, feeling it’s best to keep some information to use during the negotiation process. Yet, in today’s RFP landscape, the planner may not even make it to the negotiation table if their RFP isn’t getting noticed or responded to in the first place, losing valuable time.
Dawn Norman offers that “planners will save themselves a lot of time down the line when they think through what they want and provide a thorough and complete RFP.” By providing complete information upfront, planners not only get their RFP’s noticed and responded to, they also save time by not having to go back and forth with hotels that will have additional questions.
There are two key resources for planners to ensure their RFP’s are complete and responded to by hotels. The first is to ensure the RFP is complete. The best resource is the Convention Industry Council’s Accepted Practices Exchange (CIC/APEX) workbook. This workbook is a great tool for planners to ensure their RFP has all the detailed information hotels are looking for. Dawn Norman also offers that planners should “provide a realistic, complete and accurate RFP that includes at least three years of history. Three years of history is important for hotels to be able to provide a competitive bid for the meeting. Even if there was one year that had an anomaly, it’s better to include the history along with an explanation about what happened, then not to include it at all.”
The second key resource is the destination’s Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). The CVB not only works with planners to get a complete RFP, they also save time by acting as a facilitator and will intercept hotel questions and collect RFP responses so planners aren’t inundated with emails and phone calls. The CVB Sales professional also provides specific destination advice about demand and other factors that are unique to that location. Specifically, they can help with:
- Seasonality: Ask your CVB expert for the monthly occupancy rates so you have an understanding where the highest room demand periods are, which will restrict flexibility by the hotels in negotiations.
- Special Events: Is your RFP requesting dates over a special event in the destination? Your CVB expert will know.
- Citywide Conventions: Having a meeting at the same time as a large citywide convention can either hurt or hinder your meeting objectives. Be sure to talk with the CVB to find out what other large meetings are happening in the destination.
- Business Transient and Leisure Business: Destinations differ in their market mix, some have high business transient occupancy others are heavy in leisure. By working with the CVB you will understand the unique demand factors and will put your RFP in the best negotiating position.
3. The Resources Revealed When Everyone Understands What You Are Really Trying to Achieve
We now know providing the value of a meeting with a complete RFP before discussing rates will put a planner in a better negotiation position as well as save them time. But perhaps the most important aspect of waiting to discuss rates is that by communicating what the planner is ultimately trying to achieve will lead the planner to achieve greater meeting success.
By asking for what’s most important from the beginning, all parties are on the same page and will work toward that goal. The more targeted information provided, the more targeted resources will be at the planner’s disposal. For example, by working with the CVB from the start, the CVB sales professional will work with planners to include or eliminate hotels/venues that have the potential to be the best fit for the meeting, helping to achieve their meeting goals quickly and efficiently.
Additionally, the CVB is the local expert and helps planners achieve whatever the meeting goals happen to be. For example, if a planner communicates that a general session speaker is the most important aspect of their meeting, the CVB has the resources at hand and will put them in touch with the right person, saving time and guaranteeing the meeting’s success.
Dawn Norman experienced the value of working with a CVB recently when she was planning a meeting in a city she’d never worked in before. The meeting was a success and Dawn offers that “the CVB is a one-stop shop for my meeting. I worked with them on my meeting specifications as well as provided specific requirements my meeting had. They were not only able to coordinate all the hotel responses but were also able to help find specific requirements for my meeting, thus saving me time and money.”Key Takeaway: Being specific about the meeting’s goals and objectives as well as working with the local CVB from the start will ensure its success.
The Best Local Resource to Yield the Strongest Results for Your RFP
When you wait to discuss rates the value you will see will result in saving time, a stronger negotiation position, and ensuring overall meeting success. Three things all planners strive for. And your partner in ensuring that meeting success is the local Convention & Visitors Bureau.
By working with CVB sales professionals, you are gaining an insider view into the destination and an advocate for your meeting. The CVB sales professional has in-depth knowledge of their destination and works with planners on communicating the value of the meeting to hotels and vendors efficiently, being a facilitator for the time consuming details of the RFP proposal process, and providing resources to the planner to ensure meeting goals and objectives are met.
The CVB’s role is to help you produce a successful meeting. By starting off your RFP process with the CVB, you will be working with the best local resource that will not only find the right fit for your meeting, but will also ensure a positive meeting experience for your attendees. To reach out to CVB experts at more than 135 top meeting destinations, visit empowerMINT.com