Hotel RFP Software Improves RFP Response

The invention of hotel RFP software (request for proposal) has revolutionized hotel business meeting planning. If it seems like every business and organization is suddenly shooting RFPs to your inbox, it’s probably because they are!

Quantity – yes. Quality? Hmmm…

While hotel RFP software has increased the number of proposals you’re receiving, what it hasn’t done is magically increase the time you have available to deal with the deluge. This means you could be spending lots more time going over requests, only to find that the number of acceptable ones hasn’t increased all that much.

So how can you efficiently weed out the hotel RFPs that you, as a hotel manager, wouldn’t normally touch with a ten-foot pole?

Fight software with software.

The Sorting Hat for Hotels

There now exists electronic hotel RFP software that intelligently captures the characteristics that will put the right RFPs at the top of the electronic pile, while shuffling unacceptable ones to the bottom.

In addition, eRFP software can be set up to generate an automated response that will use information in the proposal to give the sender most of the information he or she needs without requiring you to spend time answering each and every one.

Businesses that are serious about holding their meeting or event at your hotel will get back to you to hammer out the details – the very customers you want to spend your time on!

Current Software Choices

It’s easy to find software to generate paperless RFPs. You as a hotel manager can use these applications yourself to let businesses know your facility is available for meetings and conferences.

Finding software that helps you sort through RFP responses takes a little more research, but there are some good choices out there:

  • SalesEdge – designed to streamline responses to RFPs generated by one of the most popular RFP software packages out there, Qvidian.
  • Qvidian – can be used not only to generate your own RFPs, but also to analyze RFPs submitted to your hotel and tell you instantly if the proposal is a good match for your facility. In addition, it can generate professional, automated responses.
  • RFPMonkey – another software package that can quickly categorize incoming RFPs, saving you weeding-out time.

Get the RFP monkey off your back with help from SmarteHotels.com. Contact us today!

Hotel RFPs: What Do Corporate Meeting Planners Want?

It’s true that corporate meeting planners often prefer to deal one-on-one with hotel event coordinators. However, it’s also true that planners are increasingly making use of the Internet to screen potential venues.

As the owner or manager of a small or independent hotel that’s looking to increase corporate meeting business, it’s up to you to make sure your facility pops up on planners’ web radar—and to make sure your facility has what they’re looking for. How should this affect your hotel RFPs?

Just the Details, Please

Many planners use an online database like hotelplanner.com to quickly narrow down the list of venues to contact with a hotel request for proposal (RFP). So it’s critical that when you upload your hotel’s information into one of these databases, the information is as complete and accurate as possible.

You’ll need:

  • Complete and accurate measurements of each conference room, boardroom, and ballroom, including ceiling height.
  • Number of people each can accommodate, depending on table configuration
  • Features such as video screens, windows, number of outlets, etc.
  • Equipment provided (TV/DVD/VCR, podium, video conferencing, flip boards, sound system, dry-erase boards, etc.)
  • Amenities provided, like coffee, tea, and food service, Internet, and even things you might take for granted, like air conditioning.

Contact!

Let’s say that a corporate planner has used an online database and your facility has landed on their ‘top ten’ list of hotel venues. Now they’re going to visit each hotel’s website to quickly compare those facilities—including yours.

It’s no longer enough to have a single page of your hotel’s site dedicated to meetings and events, containing only a brief description, a couple of photos, and a phone number or email. A corporate planner will quickly move on to your competitors’ sites.

Turn your hotel website into a virtual tour with interactive content; photos of facilities, rooms, and amenities; video; downloadable e-brochures; and most importantly, an opportunity to submit a hotel RFP online, or even book a small event right from the website.

Know What’s Hot

Pay attention to the deal breakers for today’s corporate planners. It wasn’t so long ago that Internet access of any kind was a luxury. Now, high-speed Wi-Fi is a must-have. Special rates for on-site restaurants, spa visits, and other amenities can also be the enticement that puts your hotel RFP at the top of the list. Don’t forget that the growing buzzword in the corporate world is “green”; pointing out your hotel’s efforts to be environmentally responsible will put a star by your hotel’s name on many a corporate planner’s short list.

Don’t let corporate meeting business slip away. Let us help you make the hotel RFPs pour in. Contact us today.

The Short List: Tips to Make Sure Your Hotel RFPs Are Top Notch

Online hotel request for proposal (RFP) sites are a convenient nexus that bring together corporate meeting planners looking for venues and hotel venues looking to connect with corporate clients.

In this mutual weeding-out process, the last thing you need is a reason to be the one weeded out. The number one reason this happens? Missing information.

Treat your online hotel RFPs with the same care you would take with a paper submission. That means dotting the i’s, crossing the t’s, and leaving no field unfilled. In addition to nuts-and-bolts information such as number of meeting rooms, room sizes, equipment provided, etc., the following is a list of the types of questions you may get from a potential corporate client looking for a meeting venue:

  • Hotel age and history
  • Completion dates and types of recent renovations
  • Dates of planned renovations
  • Details about the current hotel management team, such as how long the current team has been in place
  • Names and length of service of the employees who are designated convention and meeting planning contacts
  • Names and contact numbers/emails of up to three other corporate planners who have held a meeting or event of similar size at your hotel
  • Any other groups (and what kind) already scheduled for events during the potential client’s proposed dates. After all, a corporate client holding an important meeting requiring intense concentration won’t be a good fit if there’s a noisy toy company meeting in the next room.
  • Make sure your staff convention and meeting liaison is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP)
  • A short description of your hotel’s management policy
  • Examples of how your hotel has creatively met a client’s particular needs
  • What is it about your facility of which you are most proud?
  • Name your three biggest competitors and explain what sets your facility apart from the competition

Don’t let your hotel RFPs get weeded out; be the last venue standing! Contact Smart eHotels™ today to learn how we can help.

Hotel RFPs: How to Put Your Small Hotel On The Map

If you run a small or independent hotel, you may think you can’t compete with the big hotel chains for corporate business meeting contracts. However, remember when we talked about finding your hotel’s niche and sticking with it? If you do it right, and target the right audience, your hotel request for proposal (RFP) is more likely to pop to the top of potential clients’ short lists.

What does your hotel have that the big boys don’t? The ability to focus a higher percentage of your resources on a smaller group of people. By targeting smaller meeting events of 100, 50, or even 20 people, you’ll attract businesses that are looking for personal service in a setting that won’t make them feel like they’re getting lost in the crowd.

Ever been to a meeting at a giant hotel or conference facility? No one likes spending all day in a meeting—much less having to compete for tables and seating against a thousand attendees of six other meetings!

Great Facilities

There are a few must-haves for appealing, effective meeting spaces. These include (but are certainly not limited to):

  • Offer meeting rooms in a range of sizes
    Even if your meeting space is limited to three to five rooms, make them great places for small groups of people to spend long hours.
  • Décor that doesn’t bore—or worse, is wince-worthy
    There are few things worse than spending all day in a cold, grey, impersonal room. Neutral carpets, wood paneling, and tasteful artwork that reflects the local culture can really warm up a meeting room.
  • Comfortable seating
    Don’t skimpy on the chairs! Padded, rolling, office-style chairs with armrests will be much appreciated by those who would rather not be distracted by sore posteriors.
  • Sturdy, laptop-friendly tables
    These should be heavy enough that minor bumps won’t send everyone diving to save their expensive gadgets from puddles of coffee. Built-in outlets would also be a nice touch.
  • Adequate lighting
    No one wants to feel like they’re stuck in an interrogation room. Warm-glow bulbs are easier on the eyes. Provide a dimmer switch for audio-visual presentations.
  • Climate control
    If possible, install individual climate control in each room.
  • High speed Wi-Fi
  • Telephones with speakers for teleconferencing
  • Plug and play audio/visual equipment, including presentation screens
    Make sure the room’s ceiling height will accommodate larger screens.
  • Extra wall outlets
    Don’t make your guests fight over limited outlets. Provide one or two power strips per room, as well.
  • Privacy
    Removable walls make a larger space more versatile, but they’re seldom soundproof. Nobody wants to deal with sensitive corporate problems while a cocktail reception is going on next door.

Great Service

  • Dedicated event planner/concierge onsite
    Having one go-to person to keep things running smoothly will bring back repeat customers.
  • On-site technical support
    Don’t let your client’s meeting get hung up over a glitchy projector or broken Wi-Fi. Problems will happen, but have the proper staff in place to quickly resolve them.

Attractive Amenities

  • Indoor and outdoor break areas
    Even if your hotel is located in an urban area, try to find an outdoor space for guests to step out and get some air during meeting breaks. Leave no rooftop unturned! Many city hotels make use of roofs for patio socializing spaces.
  • High-quality food
    Look at the reviews on any hotel RFP site: what is one of the top three items guests remember? The food! Whether you work with caterers or prepare food onsite, make sure it’s something you’d be proud to serve at your own table.
  • Workout and relaxation facilities
    Savvy business travelers always appreciate a place to sweat off on-the-road meals or enjoy some after-meeting social time. If your hotel doesn’t have an onsite restaurant or bar, a cozy lounge area is a nice touch.

Let us show you how to increase your hotel RFP submissions PDQ! Contact Smart eHotels today.

‘Convention-al’ Wisdom: Hotel Request For Proposal, Part 3

Last time, we covered how to effectively respond to a hotel request for proposal (RFP). This time, in the last of our series on RFPs, let’s take a look at how to handle them electronically.

Like just about everything else these days, event planners shopping for venues appreciate the opportunity to go paperless when it comes to searching for venues and submitting a request for proposal (RFP).

Online Databases

Taking a cue from the online reservation search engines sprouting up all over the web these days, someone figured out how to “make an app for that.” StarCite.com and Conventionplanit.com are dedicated to bringing meeting planners and venues together in one convenient place, though planners have been known to seek direct connections with hotels rather than go through a third party.

Still, if your facility is relatively new, uploading your RFP information into one of these databases could be a good way to get on convention planners’ radar or pick up last minute, fast-turnaround contracts for shorter, small-group meetings.

Your Own Website

Working with your website administrator, it should be easy to design a simple series of forms that will walk event planners through submitting an RFP directly on your website. Once they click “Submit,” you’ll receive an email notification.

Free templates are available online, many of which include instructions on how to put together everything, from the “front end” (online user interface and functionality) to the “back end” (reporting of user data to use toward future tweaking). Bring your paper RFP to the design meeting with your web admin to tweak the template or design a custom online form.

Professional Prose

Just because almost everything involving an RFP can be accomplished electronically doesn’t mean you can let your effective business communications skills slide! RFP submission involves the ability to write courteous and professional letters.

  • RFP Letter of Intent
    Depending on the specific steps for submission outlined in the event planner’s initial RFP (which you must follow exactly!), you may be asked to submit a letter of intent (also known as a query letter) before you are asked to send the actual response.
  • RFP Proposal Cover Letter
    Also known as a letter of transmittal, this letter should accompany your response to an event planner’s request for proposal. It should outline your organization’s authorization of the proposal and emphasize why your hotel is the best venue for the event.
  • RFP Response Letter
    This is a separate letter that can be sent directly to the originator of the RFP, stating your interest in this and/or a related event and explaining how your facility can best meet the requirements of the RFP you’ve just received. Think of it as giving the event planner the heads-up to expect a proposal soon.

In this series, we walked you through the sometimes-confusing world of hotel requests for proposal. Contact Smart eHotels today and we’ll help you sharpen your RFP process so you’ll rise to the top of the competition.

‘Convention-al’ Wisdom: Hotel Request For Proposal, Part 2

Last time, part one of this series covered what a hotel request for proposal (RFP) is and what information to look for in RFPs that your hotel sales staff receives from event planners. There are times, however, when your staff will need to send out an RFP in response to a call for bids to host an event or send a timely response to RFPs sent from event planners. Part 2 covers how to respond to these in a professional manner.

Response Time

There’s nothing worse than letting an RFP languish on your desk until the deadline is past; that means lost business and a guarantee that that event planner won’t come knocking again. Plus, event planners talk to other event planners at their industry conventions; you see the potential problem!

Before RFP season starts (typically in July or August), sit down with your sales staff and map out a specific procedure for handling requests so that nothing slips through the cracks. It’s a good idea for one person to receive all requests, write the responses, and have them approved by you (the manager/owner) before they are sent back. Come up with a spreadsheet or other system, such as contact management software, to track incoming RFPs and your responses.

Tracking which event planners send RFPs from year to year is a good idea. For example, if you notice that Planner X sent you an RFP the last three years but not this year, there could have been a personnel change, and the new planner may not be familiar with your facility.

Most importantly, set a goal for a turnaround time that guarantees your response will be quick and accurate.

Courtesy Counts

If an event planner contacts your hotel in writing, don’t assume it’s an open invitation for you to call with a verbal sales pitch; it’s a waste of the time the RFP is designed to save. If you have questions specifically related to a RFP sent for you, it’s all right to email or call someone other than the main decision maker for a clarification. It’s also good form to email simply to confirm that your response was received, and if so, ask if any additional information is needed.

Know Your Competition

Make a note of the events similar hotels in your area regularly host. Even not-so-similar hotels’ events are worth noting. For example, if you receive an RFP for a meeting or convention that isn’t right for your hotel, it won’t hurt to give a non-competing facility (or a sister facility, if you’re part of a group) the heads-up on the opportunity.

Ignoring Isn’t Bliss

When you receive an RFP for an event you are sure isn’t a good match for your facility, don’t simply ignore it. Always, always, always send a response, even if you think you won’t get the business. What if the client who didn’t pick you last year had a bad experience elsewhere, and is looking for a new venue?

In addition, a surprising number of hotels assume that because they’ve hosted a certain yearly event in the past, they don’t need to respond to an RFP for the same event this year. See above about personnel changes – the person distributing RFPs this year may be different from last year, and know nothing about your hotel.

What’s In It?

Whether your hotel sales staff develops its own proposal to send out, or receives an RFP from an event planner, the information you’re sending out is going to be about the same. Therefore, in order to send a timely response to planners’ RFPs, your hotel staff should have this list of information at their fingertips:

  • Hotel overview
    – Mission statement
    – Facility (or facilities, if there’s more than one) locations
    – Key contact information
  • A sample guest room contract
  • Meeting space details – number of rooms, size, equipment provided
  • Exhibit space details – number of spaces, size, features
  • Ballroom(s) size and features
  • Ceiling heights for all meeting, exhibit, and ballroom spaces
  • Distance of the hotel from the nearest convention center, restaurants, attractions
  • Food and beverage options available, the cost of packages plus tax
  • Banquet services provided, cost plus tax
  • Audio/visual equipment provided, fee (if any) for A/V services
  • Whether the client can bring their own A/V equipment and personnel, and if there’s a fee for this convenience
  • Wi-Fi service provided (indicate whether it’s high speed and if it’s available in the meeting rooms)
  • Video conferencing service
  • Types of payment accepted, such as corporate credit cards
  • If day meeting services provided, include this information as well
  • Special room rates available, including whether a complimentary room will be provided for every X number of rooms booked

Next time, we’ll cover electronic RFPs, and the types of letters that should accompany them, whether online or in print.

Let us help you make your hotel requests for proposals look as professional as possible. Contact Smart eHotels today!

‘Convention-al’ Wisdom: Hotel Request For Proposal, Part 1

A hotel request for proposal (RFP), in a nutshell, is the ignition switch that starts the ball rolling when corporations and organizations need a hotel venue in which to hold their events, meetings, and conventions.

There is no single standard RFP form out there, but great examples are available at the websites of the Convention Industry Council and the Global Business Travel Association.

A request for proposal can be generated in a number of different ways:

  • A hotel bidding for a specific event
  • An event planner seeking bids or information from different venues for an event
  • A third-party vendor such as StarCite.com or Conventionplanit.com, which aim to be a one-stop shop for planners to easily search for venues in one database

However, many hotel sales staffs and event planners bypass the convenience of the third-party sites in favor of making direct connections using their own customized RFPs. Therefore you’re going to find a lot of different ones flying around out there.

What To Look For

When your sales staff receives a request for proposal from an event planner, here are just a few of the essential items you should look for in order to respond as completely as possible:

  • Contact information:
    – Key contact’s name
    – Title
    – Mailing address
    – Office phone
    – Mobile phone
    – Fax number
    – Email
    – Web site address
    – Preferred method of communication
    – Billing contact
  • Event profile
    – Event name
    – Host organization
    – Event organizer (if different from host)
    – Event dates (at least two options)
    – Host overview (mission statement, for example)
    – Event objectives
    – Estimated event schedule
  • Attendee profile
    – Target market segment (For example: corporate, non-profit, military, religious, social, ethnic)
    – Attendee demographics (Such as mix of drive-ins, fly-ins, international, etc.)
    – Number of attendees expected
    – Accessibility for special needs (Such as wheelchair-accessible rooms and facilities)
    – Estimated number of guest rooms needed
  • Meeting room and exhibit space required (size including ceiling height, dates, time needed for set-up and tear-down, tables/chairs, A/V equipment, etc.)
  • Food, beverages, and banquet space needed
  • Accessibility requirements for guests with physical limitations
  • Amenities such as onsite dining, fitness, recreation, proximity to convention center, etc.)
  • Shipping and receiving services required
  • The type of event planned (such as a corporate meeting, a trade show, a product launch, training sessions, or informal local or regional employee gathering)

For a great example of what a comprehensive RFP should look like, visit the Convention Industry Council’s web site, and click “Requests for Proposals” on the left. They have RFPs for just about everything, from separate sections of the event to the whole thing.

Let us help you learn how to effectively handle requests for proposals! Contact SmarteHotels.com today.