As a former member of a major hotel chains global sales team, I would spend the entire year building relationships, wining and dining customers, and conducting site inspections of some of the world’s top corporations. The goal was to shift market share, book group and meeting business, and ultimately be selected in early fall to receive the all-important request for proposal (RFP) from the corporate travel manager so that my hotels were included in next year’s travel program.
Because I worked for a major hotel chain that has many different brands in thousands of locations, by default we received a lot of RFPs. For a smaller chain or an independent hotel, you may only get the chance to bid on a handful of RFPs. If it is a major corporation or even a small company that has a high volume of transient business in your market, bidding on and being selected could have a major impact on your properties' performance in 2018. But how do you know it is the right business for your property?
Many RFPs will look amazing and companies will promise you hundreds or more room nights at great patterns in order to secure the best possible last room available rate but you should not take their word for it. Here are some steps you should take, questions you should ask, and data you should review prior to making a decision to bid on the business.
1. Has this account produced room nights at your property in the past? If so what nights of the week did they produce room nights on? Did they stay on nights when you were sold out? What was the difference in the rate they paid versus what you were selling as your best available rate? Is there group and meeting opportunities with this account? Below is data from revintel that would answer all these questions for you with a click of the button.
2. After you have had a chance to review the data and answer the questions above to the best of your ability, it will be important to sit down with your sales, revenue management, and hotel leadership team to think about what the budget, goals, and sales strategy are going to look like for next year, and how bidding on and winning this business would help or hurt the property. A good indicator of the direction you might go would be to look at this year’s data to analyze your success and forecast how you will finish the year. Then based on what historically your owner or asset manager has asked for in YoY increases you can make assumptions on what they budget will look like next year. Based on what you know about the RFP and the company, is this a good piece of business for your property?
3. Now you have answered the tough questions, scoured through the data, and met with your team. It is time to respond to the RFP and win the business. After winning the business don’t forget to hold the customer accountable to what they said they would do for you. Remember you are helping out this company by providing them rooms when their travelers need them, presumably at a discounted rate. Sure you have made the decision that you need their business but they need you as well. With that said, my advice is to ensure you or your sales/account manager is scheduling monthly or quarterly calls with the customer to review performance and make sure they are honoring their side of the deal. With the data at your fingertips, it makes the conversation less about gut feeling or speculation and more about the numbers.
Good luck this RFP season!