As a planner, much of our time is spent researching and requesting information from suppliers and vendors. Finding the right fit for an event space, an entertainment option or a hotel is paramount to the success of a program, and that success also relates significantly to whether or not we have remained within budget. How do we ensure that our Request for Quotes are effective and will encompass all the requirements that we need? Remembering a few basic principles will guarantee a positive outcome.
Create a template
I am a strong believer in templates. In addition to speeding up the process of sending out requests to multiple vendors, giving careful thought to the development of an RFP and inclusions of the template ensures that you are providing fair and equitable information to all suppliers. Be sure to include enough information about your program so that the supplier has a good understanding of your requirements. In addition, creating a template will allow you to fairly compare all quotes once returned as they will be in a similar format.
First and foremost, define your requirements clearly. For example, when requesting a quote from a hotel, ascertain those needs which are non negotiable and must be included, i.e. wireless internet in guest and meeting rooms, maid gratuities, parking, etc. Do all rooms require King beds and turndown service? Are the dates flexible or not? Will you require the negotiated rates 3 days prior and post the event?
In addition, it is helpful to define the purpose of the event, i.e. an incentive program, regional sales meeting or awards banquet. This will allow the vendor to provide additional feedback on venue suggestions and creative ideas that you might not have considered.
Identify potential suppliers
Only send out your RFP to those vendors you know can fulfill the requirements. For example, if your large incentive program requires a lively hotel atmosphere with 2 bedded rooms because colleagues will be sharing, don’t send your RFP to a property where amenities, activities and room types are geared towards couples and honeymooners! As appealing as the property might be, it will not be a fit for what you are looking for. A little research prior will save a lot of time.
Be available to answer questions.
Upon receiving the RFP, it is only natural that vendors will want to touch base prior to sending back a formal proposal. Be available to answer questions, or if your time is limited, request that all questions be sent by email (with a deadline). Often times, many of the questions will be the same and you can answer everyone back simultaneously.
Follow up and feedback
It is not uncommon for decisions to stretch out to weeks, and sometimes months. Keep your suppliers in the loop on where the process stands, whether it is with an email every few weeks or a quick call. A lot of time goes into the preparation of a quote, and the relationships you build with your vendors is extremely important, and to show consideration for their efforts is professional and respectful.
Having to tell a vendor that they have not been selected for a program is never easy, however it is important that you take the time to provide constructive feedback that will allow them to be more competitive on future RFP’s. It will be greatly appreciated and help forge that client/supplier rapport.