Leads to Nowhere
Suppliers and planners sound off on the myriad problems with eRFPs
By RAYNA KATZ
It’s been said that while technology often solves problems, it also creates new ones.
Never before has that statement been more applicable than it is to electronic Request for Proposals. Basically, these are RFPs sent through online platforms by which meeting planners can submit requests to numerous properties—within a destination and/or across several locales—at one time and with the single press of a button, without planners having to re-produce paperwork numerous times over.
At first mention, one might think such systems would be a godsend for meeting planners, as well as hoteliers, as they can get down to brass tacks quickly. Unfortunately, they’ve been largely the opposite.
Hoteliers are drowning in a sea of paperwork because many meeting planners are sending out inquiries to tons of properties. Worse, while the number of these eRFPs has increased exponentially, the amount of booked business yielded from those inquiries has dropped dramatically, according to industry watchers.
Further, some planners end up frustrated by this process because they don’t get speedy responses or they never hear back at all as their hotel sales counterparts scramble to respond to everyone.
“It’s a big problem because it’s a lot easier to compile information for RFPs and send it now, and the hotels are being bombarded,” says Dave Scypinski, senior vice president at third-party meeting sourcing firm Conference Direct and a former top sales executive at both Hilton Hotels & Resorts and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.
“The big box hotels are trying to catch as many of the fastballs coming at them as possible,” he continues. “It’s like that episode of I Love Lucy when she’s working at the chocolate factory and can’t keep up with the conveyor belt.”
Mike Dominguez, vice president of global sales at Loews Hotels, adds, “The bandwidth of meeting professionals using those services really has expanded. They have the ability to cast a wide net now.”
But that ability may be costing salespeople their jobs, contends industry analyst Dave Lutz, managing director at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.
“People who’ve been in the industry for 25 years are losing their jobs because more RFPs are coming into their offices and their close rates aren’t what they were,” he says. “I’m sure we can find 50 to 100 people this has happened to in the last 18 months, and I think this is going to grow.” Read More...
|MGM Grand Las Vegas |
| || |
Experience MGM Grand’s new rooms at your next meeting. Our guest rooms are getting an exciting makeover with a vibrant color palette and sleek furnishings. Rooms invite relaxation with plush linens, LCD televisions, a media hub and complete minibar. Combine all that with MGM Grand’s impeccable meeting facilities, dedicated staff of Certified Meeting Professionals, and a wide variety of entertainment and dining options, and you have the best of Las Vegas under one roof.
Visit www.thegrandrenovation.com to learn more.
The ABCs of eRFPs
Just as there is no shortage of ways of doing business, there are countless ideas across the industry for how to get your RFP the attention it deserves. Here are some of the best:
Director of Sourcing
On many of the tools, you can specify whether it’s mandatory or options to know the specifics of the meeting space, like square footage, ceiling height etc. You really don’t need to know this right away and demanding it right away could slow down the response.
Also, if your meeting doesn’t have to be on particular dates, put in checkboxes for each set of dates that you’d like the hotel to look into and add a comment like ‘please confirm that you’ve checked date options a, b and c,’ so you know availability.
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting
Planners need to be honest. Whether looking at five hotels or 25, a planner should say ‘here’s what we’re doing,’ and if I as a hotel am one of 25 and I don’t have a relationship with that planner already I’m probably going to decline the bid. Hoteliers are going to appreciate the honesty. Additionally, planners need to express a willingness to be called or emailed, and not say, ‘the RFP has all of our information so there shouldn’t be any questions.’ And if you’re not willing to have all the hotels you solicit contact you then you’re not running a fair process, and you are failing to appreciate what the other side has to go through to respond to your request..
Vice President, Global Sales
We know planners are suffering time poverty but they have to make a commitment to be out in the industry. Striking up a relationship with a hotelier is the best way for a planner to get his or her needs, and those of the group, understood. This falls to suppliers too. I’ve heard my colleagues complain that eRFPs have taken away the ability to build relationships, but my job is to have a relationship with the customer before their business gets to the lead stage. Junior salespeople need to understand that you don’t build relationships behind your desk. The people I see out most often are senior salespeople who have relationships already but they’re working to reinforce them.