It's RFP Season: Are you ready? Twelve ways to be sure

By John Manderfeld President, Marin Management Inc. | May 06, 2010

Effectively managing requests for proposals (RFPs) is an important process that can get fumbled by even the most capable hotel general managers and sales departments. Since this time of year is "RFP season", now is a good time to review your RFP procedures. Of course, you should be receiving and responding to RFPs throughout the year-but because many travel management organizations plan on a calendar-year schedule, you will receive most RFPs for the upcoming year during July through September.

Travel managers have been using RFPs for years for selecting hotels for group business and volume transient accounts. Ten years ago, they mailed or faxed long forms to be completed and returned. Now, most RFPs are sent by e-mail or posted on RFP Web-sites. RFPs for group travel are sent year-round; and the volume-transient RFPs are usually done once a year.

If your hotel wants business in the group, corporate transient, government or incentive segments, you need to be actively engaged in the RFP process. Here are 12 ways to be sure that you are:

1. Do more than depend on the national sales team. If you are a franchised or other brand-affiliated hotel, don't assume that the franchiser or central sales office will assure that you get all of the RFPs that you should. National sales offices are good at getting RFPs for national and international accounts, but you likely have many large regional, state and local prospects that use an RFP process for their bulk travel management. These prospects may be entirely off the radar screen of your national sales office.

2. Work effectively with the national sales offices. If you have national sales representation, work closely with them on the RFP processes. Often national sales offices screen RFPs and selectively refer them to only those hotels that they determine should receive them. For example, they may not send a group RFP for 250 rooms to your 200 room hotel because they don't realize that you could share the event with a next-door hotel. Or the national sales office may have internal reasons for preferring to refer business to some hotels and not others.

Be in regular contact with all of your national sales representatives to assure fair and prompt deliveries the RFPs suitable for your hotel. Ask for lists of RFPs that they receive for your location and for your type of hotel in other locations. And fully document those communications for future reference by management and other members of your sales team.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.