Use a strategy from the Olympics to get complete, competitive bids from hotels

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 7, 2013 3:13:00 PM

How many times has a hotel salesperson asked you, “When will you make your decision?” Do you know what they’re really asking? Read on to find out.

News flash: Hotel salespeople love to compete. I know – it’s kind of obvious. But most meeting planners forget about this very important fact when sourcing their meetings. You have the power to get their competitive juices flowing, leading to better deals and faster responses.

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Topics: RFP Tips, Negotiations

The Psychology of Short Lists: From the Olympics to your Next Meeting

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 7, 2013 3:13:00 PM

To understand the effects a Short List date has on the competitive environment of the hotels bidding on your meeting, look no further than this past summer’s Olympic Games. If you recall, each race consisted of two separate competitions:  the Prelims and – if you were good enough – the Finals.

What’s so compelling about this format is that the Prelims force everyone to race as fast as possible to make the finals. No lollygagging or holding anything back.

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Topics: RFP Tips, Negotiations

Get the most out of your eRFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Jul 31, 2012 11:37:00 AM

Think a-to-zRFP for the best results.

Most of you out there in Zentila-land have told us that you struggle not only with getting timely bids from your hotel partners, but also just getting complete bids. In fact, many times you don’t even receive a response. So what’s going on? It comes down to the current technology and your best friend, your hotel salesperson. Unfortunately, these days hotels salespeople are bombarded with meeting RFPs. In fact, so many RFPs, they can’t get to them all. But wait: These aren’t even real RFPs. Nope, they're what the industry now calls RFP Spam.

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Topics: RFP Tips, Negotiations

To get the most out of your eRFP, you have to include the rest of the alphabet.

Posted by Mike Mason

Jul 17, 2012 11:38:00 AM

To get great results from your eRFP, think a-to-zRFP.


This is part 1 of a 2-part series in preparation for a webcast that’s being presented by Successful Meetings and Visit Orlando on July 24, titled “Electronic RFPs: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” Click here for registration information.

If you use an eRFP tool, fill in this sentence: “I _________ (love; cherish; muddle through; can’t stand; despise; want to shoot into space) my eRFP tool.”

There. You said it. Doesn't that feel better? Chances are, based on the many discussions we've had with meeting planners about their eRFP tools, you were somewhere between muddle through and put that sucker on the next SpaceX rocket launch.

So what’s really going on here? eRFPs are simple enough, right? Fill in some information about your meeting, ask all of the questions you need answered in order to make your decision, select a bunch of hotels to send it to, click send and BAM, magically, the eRFP elf delivers your meeting lead to your selected hotels and you have bids back from each hotel, complete and on-time.

Huh? What’s that? You’re NOT getting bids on time? And they’re not complete? Hold on, did you just say that often you don’t even get bids back? And you’re then forced to send it out to more hotels, adding more time to the process?

The reality about eRFPs is this: it’s not necessarily the tool that’s the problem (OK, some tools are difficult to use, but that’s for another time.) It’s how the technology is used that’s causing such angst. But there’s good news: With a little extra thought, you can avoid the problems of eRFPs and create compelling a-to-zRFPs.

Think like a hotel salesperson
You want timely, complete, and compelling bids from your hotel partners? Then motivate your sales manager to drop everything and respond to your meeting request. How?  By including unique details (from A-to-Z) that will make your eRFP stand out. For the salesperson, this means making your meeting lead more bookable. The more bookable the sales person believes the eRFP to be, the more likely they’ll drop everything and deliver to you a kick-butt proposal that’s complete, on-time, and at a rockin’ value.

(Fact: Most hotels have seen triple-digit growth in lead volume in the past few years, while their closure rates on those leads have plummeted. Your goal is to make your meeting stand out from the sea of leads (aka RFP Spam) that hotel sales people receive each day.)

Your a-to-zRFP: 5 steps to making your meeting more bookable
Step 1: Salespeople are jealous, so don’t date too many hotels. The fewer hotels on the eRFP, the higher the chance for each hotel to book your meeting. This is the single greatest motivator for sales people. But it only works if you tell them. So turn up the volume on your lead by providing each hotel with how many and who they’re competing with, and limit the number of hotels to 6 or less.

In my next Zmail, I’ll deliver the remaining steps for building your a-to-zRFP and creating the most bookable lead your sales person will receive in their day. 

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

How to book space-only meetings without breaking out in an itchy rash.

Posted by Mike Mason

Jun 4, 2012 11:54:00 AM

Let’s face it, nothing brings out more redness, puffiness, and scratchiness than trying to book a space-only meeting. Whether it’s a one-day employee rally, a dinner meeting, or a 14-city roadshow, it’s pretty much always painful to try to rent meeting space when you have little or no sleeping rooms.

I bet that many of you have resorted to completely eliminating hotels from the mix – opting for restaurants, theaters, and club houses instead. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hotels want your business. It’s how your business affects them that makes all the difference.

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

A Tale of 2 Cities, part deux

Posted by Mike Mason

May 29, 2012 11:55:00 AM

Timmy's Story pt. 2, or "How to Fix the RFP Spam Problem"

Last week, I introduced you to the story of Timmy, the hotel sales manager whose big dreams were dashed on the rocky shoreline of online RFPs.

Timmy's problem was that he couldn't figure out which eRFPs he should invest his time on, because most eRFPs are sent to large numbers of hotels and ask a lot of questions. Timmy knew that, as a result, he had no shot at booking these, so he went into autopilot and just responded without much thought. The result on the meeting planner’s side is late or incomplete bids, or in some cases, no bids at all.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Here's the key: Think of your site selection process in terms of steps, where each step narrows the field of hotels and at the same time, asks the hotels to work harder. By taking this tiered approach and asking more of hotels as their chances grow (each cut reducing the number of hotels, and increasing the remaining hotels’ chance of booking), you’re telling sales managers, “Hey, you’re part of the in-crowd -- the chosen few," which dramatically shifts their attention span and directs it right at you. The result is that you will be far more likely to get their best because they know they have a real chance at booking your meeting.

Here’s a suggested path you might consider for your next meeting.

Step 1: Search broadly. Get room rates, F&B minimums, room rental and a yes or no to the question of sleeping room and meeting space availability. Send to 10 – 12 hotels. (This is not the time to get them to respond to your concessions, agree to your addendum, or assign meeting room names. I promise, if you wait, you’ll get far more value later on.)

Step 2: Narrow your search. Based on the first pass of availability and rates, reduce the number of hotels down to five – seven.

Step 3: Inform the hotels. Sales Managers, start your engines! This is where you begin to energize those salespeople. Tell the hotels that made the cut and also let them know who else is on the short-list. Be sure to notify the others that they didn’t make the cut.

Step 4: Put your chosen hotels to work. Open up the dialogue and connect. It’s also time to give your “chosen few” more information on your meeting, to include your concession requests, addendums, etc.

Step 5: Narrow again. Yes, that’s right. One more cut down to your top three is critical to getting the most out of your hotel relationships. Imagine the excitement of those three salespeople when they hear they’ve made it. I’ve been there, and I can tell you by that point I was driven to win the business.

Once you’ve completed this five-step process, you’ll have all the information you need to select the best offer. Make your decision with confidence, pop champagne with the winner, and let the others down quickly so they can move on.

This path will save you time and it will ensure that you get the right information and the best offers from the right hotels at the right time along the path.. And that, in turn, will ensure that you get the best possible outcome, because the effort at each step – both yours and the hotel salespeople’s – is equal to the opportunity.

Plus, remember Timmy? He’s a real person, and a really good guy. You’ll help him make his dreams come true. Now that’s some good karma.

Zen On.


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Download our FREE Meeting Planner Guide To GREAT Meeting RFPs

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Topics: RFP Tips

A tale of 2 Cities ... no ... 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 cities!

Posted by Mike Mason

May 25, 2012 11:57:00 AM

When searching for hotel availability, less is more.

I have a sad story to share. It’s about a little boy named Timmy, his puppy named “Skipper,” and a dream. Rather, a dream gone bad. You see, Timmy wanted to be a hotel salesperson – not just any hotel salesperson, but the best hotel salesperson ever.

Timmy grew up and studied hotel sales in college. He even started out washing dishes in hotels just to get in the door. When he finally made it into sales, he proclaimed, “Awesome, dudes. I’m gonna be the best dang salesperson ever.”

But alas, what started as a dream quickly faded into harsh reality as he found his day being spent responding to mountains of online RFPs. That wouldn’t have been so bad if they booked every once in a while, but these rarely did. Timmy’s dreams had been dashed on the rocky shoreline of RFP Spam.

(OK, I should note that what I’m describing actually did happen, but I’ve paraphrased it to keep it as short as possible. Also, I made up the puppy.)

I had an opportunity to chat with Timmy recently as he was responding to one of those many online RFPs. He reported that this was a pretty typical lead. I asked, “How many hotels are you competing against?” He said he didn’t know exactly – but he knew the RFP was sent to seven different cities.

“That’s a lot of cities,” I exclaimed. Timmy agreed. And it took him roughly 40 minutes to complete the online RFP. Let’s assume that the lead went to just four or five hotels in each city. That meant there could be as many as 35 sales managers, each spending 35-45 minutes, on a meeting that had no better than a 3% chance of booking at any given hotel. Overall, that’s about 25 hours of labor.

The sad thing is, for the planner who sent this out, all of the Timmies at all of those hotels have no choice but to switch to auto-pilot as they fill in the answers to the questions. They can’t give you their best thinking and most personalized offers, specifically because they know they have virtually no shot at booking it. I’ve talked with many planners who are frustrated by the fact that on many occasions bids are coming back incomplete or late, or sometimes not coming back at all. It’s not because Timmy is a bad sales manager. It’s because he’s drowning in low-converting RFPs.

So, how does this story end? Stay tuned! On Monday, I’ll share with you the path we recommend you take – a path that will actually take less of your time and deliver you more benefit from Timmy’s hard work than you would have thought possible.

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Topics: RFP Tips

Pressed meat (yuck) and your meeting RFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 16, 2012 2:22:00 PM

For your meeting request, less is more.

There’s an interesting trend occurring within hotel sales and meeting planner offices across the country. It’s one that, quite honestly, defies logic. Hotel group sales offices are receiving more meeting leads than ever before. They should be happy about this, right? Wrong. Because they’re actually closing far fewer of those leads than at any time in history. And for you, the planner, it means incomplete and late bids, if you receive any bids at all. So what’s up?

Two words: RFP Spam.

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Topics: RFP Tips

A little flexibility can help save money on your meetings.

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 9, 2012 4:18:00 PM

Using flexibility after you've signed the contract

Last week, I told you the one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting request. This week we’re going to continue flexing with a unique idea that could have a dramatic impact on your bottom line, after you’ve signed the contract.

Hotels are constantly working to complete their “occupancy puzzle.” After they’ve booked your meeting, they’re out to find other business that will neatly fit on top of, at the back end of, or before your meeting, on their quest to maximize their occupancy and profitability. But as we know, most things in life aren’t so “neat,” and finding that perfect-fitting group is all but impossible. That’s when this phone call is made.

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips

The one sentence you should never, ever put in your meeting RFP

Posted by Mike Mason

Apr 2, 2012 4:19:00 PM

"These dates are not flexible!"


If I had a nickel for every time I’ve seen this sentence on a meeting RFP, I could buy a gumball for every Zentila user and still have enough left over to open my own candy store.

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips