How Hotels Can Improve the RFP Process
by Howard Feiertag
So many hotel sales associates are going nuts trying to handle all the requests for proposals coming into a property every day. Of course, they all do not get reviewed or answered immediately. In fact, many meeting planners have been complaining about their requests not getting responded to at all. These requests keep coming in, not only directly from meeting planners needing the information to help them make a decision about a meeting location, but also from third-party independent planners, convention bureaus and a wide variety of software companies trying to assist planners who have their software programs. This creates a deluge of requests daily for hotels, conference centers and resorts to answer. How much time does it take to review all these inquiries, and then to determine if this is business in which the property may be interested?
In most cases, as the RFPs are reviewed, if they do not meet the needs of a property, in all probability, they do not get answered. This makes the inquirer unhappy and creates a poor image of the property, which may very well reflect badly in case there is other future business that may be available. Also of great concern is how much time is spent by sales associates in reviewing and responding to all these RFPs. So much time is spent in responding to RFPs that are never booked. Is there an opportunity to reduce the amount of time spent by sales people by having someone else do the reviews to determine which may very well be the best prospects for a property? This would help greatly so that a sales person can spend more time in actually following up on a qualified prospect. Further, management should try to determine what percentages of the RFPs coming in represent qualified prospects for a property; it may likely be a pretty low amount.
Once reviews of incoming requests are made, the ones that represent the best prospects for the property need to be contacted. The best bet would be to actually go ahead and make the phone call to the meeting planner for an organization or company, not necessarily to the person sending the RFP. Requests coming in directly from the sponsor of a group, whether it is a company or an organization, should be handled immediately. This should be a priority, even though that particular request may not qualify for the property. We never know when that sponsor may have another opportunity for a group to be placed at that location.
With the limited number of sales staffs located at properties these days, it is important for management to find other staff associates to assist on the reviews of RFPs, and have sales staffers work those which would qualify for the property.