RFPs: What are the Keys to Conversion?

By Elaine Macy Vice President of Group Sales, Preferred Hotel Group | September 09, 2018

In today's environment, with hotels experiencing strong demand and minimal availability, hotel sales managers must be strategic and flexible to be successful. No matter how many RFPs a property receives, the conversion rate depends on the hotel successfully completing a series of steps – with the two most important being negotiations and a site inspection – to turn that initial opportunity into an executed contract.

The most successful sales managers are those who develop a strategy based on client knowledge and hotel capabilities prior to the first in-person meeting, as this will save everyone time and make the client feel valued and that they are getting a truly personalized experience. . In today's world, clients are busier than ever, and to close business, we must create value, communicate in a clear, concise manner, and provide a win/win negotiation with options.

Here are my tips and thoughts on what I consider the two most important aspects of converting an RFP to a contract:

Site Inspection Conversion

The site inspection is the moment of truth when a hotel has full control of closing the business, as this piece of the process provides the client with a chance for a memorable sales experience. Hotel sales, revenue teams, and management are a triumvirate that make a sale easy to close. Hard to believe? Not really! If a sales manager has the true information of the client's needs (friendly reminder: always ask your client for an addendum so you can see it in advance), has access to the rates their client needs, and can bring management the correct facts of the end user and the client to the site, conversion will be easier.

Sales directors must believe in their product, conceptualize creative ideas in partnership with management to ensure clients have a "wow" experience during the site that creates a lasting impression for what could occur on property, and then create a plan with the revenue manager and management for how to respond to concessions, rebates, and other programming to prepare for a successful site that will convert the business.

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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.