Making Your RFP Stand Out

By Lain Ehmann
When meeting planners are thinking about sending out a Request for Proposals (RFP), often they assume that once all the initial work is done, it’s just as easy to add another handful of recipients to the list of hotels, so why not go ahead and try to get a few more responses, right? This is particularly easy with online RFP systems that make asking for additional respondees as simple as checking another box.
That more-is-better attitude actually can work against planners, however. The gross number of RFPs sent via the online RFP system StarCite in the first quarter of this year was up 44% over last year, totaling 92,000 requests. As a result, sales managers at hotels and other venues are becoming pickier about what they respond to. When many of the RFPs relate to business they have virtually no chance of getting or are duplicate requests from independent planners competing for the same business, hoteliers find themselves on RFP overload. The result? This avalanche of RFPs is causing an increase in delays and nonresponses from the hotels. So what can meeting planners do to make sure their RFPs get the attention they deserve?
1.      Consider pickiness a virtue. Instead of the shotgun approach whereby you send your document to every possible service provider, do your homework and create a short list of venues or vendors who can do the job. This background research might give you fewer leads, but they’ll be good ones.
2.      Remember your manners. If you – or a third-party planner working on your behalf – decide against a particular property, take a second to let them know so they can quit working on a dead proposal. While this may not help you directly, if everyone adhered to common courtesy sales managers would waste a lot less time, which, in the end, benefits everyone.
3.      Put some details in your RFP. The more information you can supply in your RFP, the more likely you are to receive proposals that actually fit your needs. Joyce Inderbitzin, co-chair of the Convention Industry Council’s (CIC) Accepted Practices and Exchange (APEX) RFP panel and vice president of meetings and convention services for Hilton Hotels, says in MeetingNews ( that the lack of specifics keeps hoteliers from delivering complete and timely responses.

Follow the leader. APEX has created a list of recommended practices for both planners, such as preparing an event’s specifications before contacting prospective vendors, and venues, such as regularly updating their online profiles. To see the complete list, click on