It's better than Shark Week!

Posted by Mike Mason

Mar 11, 2013 12:41:00 PM

Here in Zentila-land, we like concessions so much that we've devoted the whole month of March to them. It’s kind of like Shark Week except, well, it lasts a whole month. Most importantly, it doesn't contain any gory scenes of chum-filled waters.

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Topics: RFP Tips, Negotiations

How do I love thee? Let me count the square feet.

Posted by Mike Mason

Feb 25, 2013 1:46:00 PM

Making hotels' Space-to-Rooms Ratio work for you

As a recovering salesperson, I have a love/hate relationship with math. Sure, I love numbers with dollar signs in front of them ... most of the time, at least. But the prospect of repeating high school trigonometry gives me cold sweats.

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

Why's everyone so scared of the F&B minimum?

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 21, 2013 7:19:00 PM

The reason people gather for face-to-face meetings each year is the riveting content presented at those meetings. But what people really remember are the banquet events (i.e., catered breakfast, lunch, and dinner). They provide the opportunity for attendees to take a break, come together, and create bonds. It’s here where much of the day’s sessions are put into perspective, discussed and debated, and where the real value of the event often begins to take shape for each attendee. It’s also where a fair portion of your meeting budget is spent and where hotels make a nice chunk of profit. In order to protect this revenue stream, hotels almost always include a minimum Food & Beverage spend in their contracts.

During my hotel sales days, I always found it funny when a customer would attempt to negotiate down our hotel food and beverage minimums, when it was clear by the size of the group that they were going to end up spending more than what we were asking. Now I get the premise: Less committed spend means less overall commitment to the hotel. But when groups do blow past their F&B minimums, they get no additional benefit for the spend.

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Topics: Meeting Planning, RFP Tips, Negotiations

Summary: Your Meeting eRFP and 7 Simple Tips to Get Hotels to Stand Up and Take Notice

Posted by Mike Mason

Jan 16, 2013 5:09:00 PM

The biggest change that has taken place over the last several years is the adoption of eRFPs, the technology that enables planners to send their meeting requests to hotels in just a couple of clicks and magically receive complete proposals in a few hours. Or at least that’s how it was intended.

The reality is that the technology that was supposed to save so much time is now the #1 reason you’re not receiving timely, complete hotel proposals. The problem with eRFP technology is that it’s made it too easy to send requests to way too many hotels. It’s not unusual today to see a single meeting sent to 40, 50 or even 90 hotels at one time.  In 2010, Zentila coined a term that is now standard in the industry to describe this phenomenon: RFP SPAM.

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. As a result, hotel sales managers must sort through the pile of RFP’s and decipher between the ones that appear to be more likely to book and the ones that are just spam.

We have focused several posts on how planners can get hotel sales managers' attention and help them to offer the best meeting deals.

Here are some tips to help you get better and faster responses to your eRFP:

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Topics: RFP Tips, Negotiations

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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Topics: RFP Tips

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