How to Qualify Group Leads in a Sea of RFPs

by | Jul 6, 2017 | For Hoteliers

Not converting as much group business as you expected this year? Before you start pointing fingers at any particular sales manager, consider this:

Your hotel may simply be receiving TOO MANY leads.

Hotel sales departments are drowning in RFPs — many of them unqualified. RFP spam happens when corporate event planners, meeting professionals, or third-party intermediaries cast a wide net for proposals by sending them to 20, 30 or more hotels, despite the fact that any number of these hotels may not be the best fit.

As a result, sales managers spend a bulk of their prime selling hours sifting through this barrage of potential business trying to determine the best leads to pursue. Only then can they put together a targeted proposal to win more business from the qualified leads.

Here’s how hotel sales managers can qualify group leads and determine which RFPs are worth their while.

Assess your competition for the group’s business

Don’t make assumptions about how many other hotels you’re up against. Reach out to the corporate event planner or meeting professional and ask how many hotels he or she is currently considering. Is it three or 30? Are they all in your area or is the event planner also considering another city?

Most importantly, get the names of the other hotels in the running for this group business. Are they in your comp set or on another level entirely? You should be able to gauge right away if the meeting planner has too large a pool for potential sites. These simple questions will give you more clarity and help you determine if winning this business is a long shot or true possibility.

Determine how your hotel shines and stumbles in comparison

Figure out where you stand against the backdrop of the competing hotels. What do other spaces offer that you don’t? What do you lack? Out of this group of competing hotels, which property is your fiercest opponent for this piece of group business? What is your chance of winning this event against these hotels?

Ideally, your sales managers should know the advantages and shortcomings of all the other meeting and conference venues in town so this isn’t an exercise you have to do for every RFP. You should automatically know how to sell against each member in your comp set. Take the assets that make your property and your meeting experience remarkable and showcase those highlights in the proposal, the site inspection, and any other dealings with the event planner.

Look to the past

Examine the venues this group booked previously and determine how you compare. What do they have in common? Are there hotels they continually return to?

Find out what the meeting planner liked and disliked about previous venues. What was their favorite venue and why? What did attendees express in their post event surveys? Where did attendees have the best experience? Find ways to capitalize on that information.

Dig into the event planner’s true preferences

Sometimes meeting planners are considering a wide breadth of options. Maybe they decided on a city but don’t know if they want to be downtown, along the waterfront, or in another fun area. So, they send out more than 10 RFPs to hotels in each of those areas hoping one will match. Help them decide which area would be best for their group based on their preferences.

Besides room rates, what’s truly important to them? Distance from the airport? Access to golf? An outdoor, oceanfront reception space? Drill down and find out which amenities matter most to them and their attendees.

And even if they are seeking a certain amenity that you don’t offer, don’t count yourself out of the running just yet. Get creative and brainstorm how to deliver the experience the event planner wants.

For example, do they want a venue with cityscape views, yet your hotel is located 10 minutes from downtown? Partner with an amazing venue that can fill in the gap for you and propose that option instead, along with complimentary transportation.