Here’s the sad truth:
Fast forward to today. With the advent of nifty electronic site selection tools, it’s easier than ever to push out that RFP! Why stop at three destinations when, with a click of the mouse, a planner can choose twenty? There’s no harm in that, right? More to choose from and more competitors equals better results for the client, right?
Let’s take a look at how this all-too-common practice is deeply threatening our industry, both internally and externally.
More is NOT always better. Sometimes, more is just more. Talk to any hotel salesperson and they’re drowning in RFPs. And their odds of winning each piece of business have decreased dramatically in just a few years. When planners practice ‘RFP Spam,’ the competition goes way up and the potential to win business goes way down. Suppliers are spinning their wheels more and more, and that means they have less enthusiasm to put toward each lead – why bother if your odds are one in 50??
Faster is NOT always better. Most planners think a proposal is a simple template containing dates, rates and space, and not much time or effort goes into it. As a result, we’ve been granting shorter and shorter lead times for suppliers to turn around our RFPs. 24 hours is the norm these days (often shorter). How can a supplier infuse that proposal with creativity and respond thoroughly in 24 hours, especially when there are 50 other RFPs awaiting their attention (plus their normal workload of prospecting, sales calls, site tours, etc.)? We’re completely removing their ability to truly get to know our meeting needs and differentiate their proposals.
Commoditization is bad. Really, really bad. If all it takes for a planner to generate an RFP is a few minutes of filling out a form and a couple mouse clicks, anybody can do that. An administrative assistant, an intern, the boss’s teenage daughter. If a planner isn’t infusing her RFP with thoughtful research and wisdom, and has chosen to let the proposal responses BE her research, what value is she bringing to the process? She’s simply being a data entry technician, not the wise, creative event strategist she could be. Is it any wonder our superiors sometimes have a hard time understanding the value we bring to the table?
If we only allow four hours’ turnaround time for our RFPs, and we’ve reduced the incentive to the salesperson by reducing their odds of winning the business, what do we expect in return? Here’s what we get: a lifeless proposal cranked out under pressure, using a generic template. Anybody can do that. An administrative assistant, an intern, the boss’s teenage daughter. See where I’m going with this?
When there’s no expertise involved on either end, both planner and supplier become a commodity – easily changed out for someone who can do it cheaper, because it certainly didn’t involve any expertise or hard-won wisdom. We’ve got to fix this!
Dear planner colleagues, the change has to start with us. Most electronic RFP companies have a vested interest in generating as much volume as possible for their suppliers, so they won’t be part of the solution. Suppliers are merely reacting – so planners are the ones who need to bring about a change. We created this mess and we need to clean it up.
What’s that you say? You’re not part of the problem? Even if you’re behaving admirably, giving one or two week deadlines and sending your RFPs out to only a short list of pre-qualified suppliers, you still feel the pain of the situation, I’m sure. You see, your thoughtfully crafted RFP is buried under the mountain of RFP SPAM on each supplier’s desk. They can’t get to yours because they have four-hour deadlines to meet. They can’t thoroughly read your four-page, beautifully crafted RFP because they have to focus on quantity, not quality. It’s a shame.
I’m not saying that we’re all guilty, but it’s in all our best interests to join together to fix the problem.
What can you do?
For starters, begin educating those around you about the problem. I really think most of this is a lack of awareness on the planner part. We don’t intentionally mean to cause suppliers to spin their wheels for naught, and we don’t want to harm the industry or damage our own reputations.
Take the new RFPsmart© pledge. Go to www.plannerbliss.com and vow to be part of the solution. Your pledge means you’ll send out RFPs only to a fair number of suppliers, and give a reasonable deadline.
Educate your supplier partners – let them know that they are serious contenders for your business, because you took the pledge and your RFP is RFPsmart© compliant.
Join me in taking the pledge today – let’s not just talk about the problem, but become part of the solution.
Shawna Suckow, CMP, is a veteran planner and the Founder of SPIN:Senior Planners Industry Network (www.spinplanners.com) and The Hive Network (www.thehivenetwork.org). She’s the author of Planner Pet Peeves and Supplier Pet Peeves, both available on Amazon. She is an award-winning speaker to audiences worldwide on audience engagement, supplier-planner relations and other meetings industry topics.