“Ugh I don’t understand why the hotel responded like that!” I am sure this is something you have heard before in the event planning industry. The process of the Request for Proposal (RFP) is like a dance between the event planner and venue sales manager. The two take the dance floor trying not to step on each other toes but each trying to lead the dance making it a beautiful partnership for a successful dance and in this case a meeting or event.
Here’s a little fact if you don’t know this already, most sales managers want every single booking that comes across their desk and if they say they don’t, their lying. I mean after all they are in sales and their job depends on booking business. If you find that a sales manager didn’t respond with the information you need for your meeting, then possibly it was (not pointing fingers) a problem with the RFP they received.
We (venue sales manager) have to respond via so many different methods for planners, it’s crazy. We can adapt in most circumstances, heck, to name a few there are the planner generated proposal response form, hotel generated proposal response, Starcite response, CVent response, Corporate response forms (Marriott, Starwood, etc..) and any other small business website out there that states they can do it better than everyone else.
If you as a planner have to be focused on ROI for your meetings include everything you can about that meeting. I know when I was planning events for a large corporation I had to keep an ROI sheet with each event to show the negotiation power and worth of an event planner. Keep your RFP simple, use the same form or method of response for each meeting, so the hotel sales manager can respond quicker and better for you each time.
I have dealt with planners that simply sent an email stating “We are looking to host a meeting in your area and would like to see what you can offer? We are looking for XX/XX date for 10 people let me know what you have; I look forward to hearing from you.” Really, I cannot respond to that with what they are expecting and now have to play fifty questions. It happens more than you think and if you want a good response that gets you a competitive answer from a venue always include the following when necessary:
- The title of your meeting because we have to built your event into our system to hold space.
- Include your name and address at the organization and include a person who will be charge of the meeting or event, again we have to build your account if it’s not in our system already.
- Please always include a preferred city or regions, this is big because it allows the hotels and venues to know who they are potentially competing against which can include getting a better response (more value).
- What are your meeting goals and objectives (briefly)? This helps with placing your meeting in the proper space and location of the venue.
- What are your referred properties? Do you prefer a downtown hotel, a resort or maybe a airport property.
- Include all possible meeting dates and trends, if you can always include alternate dates so that you have an opportunity to reach more venues to get a broader response.
- If you need guest rooms include your sleeping-room block. Always include any special suites; staff discounts; single, double, triple, or quad occupancies anticipated.
- If you can include a desired guest room rate this will help the hotel know your budget.
- Include a daily meeting schedule with a layout of meeting space requirements and usage. Include any specific needs for space such as square footage, plus staff meeting space, AV needs, 24 hour holds, etc…
- The need for any reduced or waived meeting room rentals.
- Make sure to include any food and beverage needs for your event. Include the number of people, specifics for certain meals as well can help. Do you want a continental breakfast or a full breakfast, a bag lunch or a full buffet lunch? The more specific you can get on your meal needs can in turn affect your meeting room rental with a Food and Beverage Minimum.
- Let us know a preferred mode of response (phone, mail, fax, e-mail). Are you willing to talk to a sales manager on the phone? If you want your response via a website, do you still want a response directly from a hotel generated proposal to be able to see the venue better?
- Include a submission deadline in the RFP so that we can know your time frame.
- If it is possible let the venue know a decision date, this will allow the hotel to manage their space better with all leads coming in.
- Any additional information necessary to meet your group’s goals in regards to any special concessions. Do you need all ADA guest rooms, shuttle services, etc…
- If it can help your group out, let us know of any additional information that can attract your group to the venue location. Are you willing to bring in a local group to help attract the national group? Do you have certain offsite activities that you need to meet each year? A sales manager is always willing (or should be) to reach out and put in some foot work for your event to make it a success.
If you’re able to create an RFP that can include all these items when necessary then there should be no reason a venue should be able to not respond which the information you need and want in a timely manner. A complete RFP not only makes a hotel sales manager’s job easier but also a planner’s job because you’re getting all information needed to move forward with a successful event.
I have a rule when I receive a lead and that is to immediately call or email the planner letting them know I received the lead and I am working on it for them right now. At this point I always ask if there is anything else I may need to know about the group that is not included in the RFP, more times than not I receive more information that helps me with my response. You need to contact early and stay in contact often, building a relationship of trust between the Sales Manager and the planner.
The start of creating a successful meeting or event comes from both ends of the process, between the planner and venue sales manager. The music is playing; the attendees are anxious but are you ready to work together in the elegant dance of the RFP process to make it a show your attendees will always remember.
Adam Schomaker is “The Go To Guy” for event professionals for the Amway Hotel Collection in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He is based out of the JW Marriott Grand Rapids and has worked for several large hotel chains including Holiday Inn and Hilton. He has several years of event planning experience and you can connect with him on Twitter @AdamSchomaker or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org