For too many requests for proposals, it’s a GIGO situation. That’s “garbage in, garbage out,” explained independent planner Meghan Palm, CMP, HMCC, at the 2018 Pharma Forum in Philadelphia. Her breakout session on improving hotel sourcing by avoiding the “garbage in” scenario was aimed at life sciences meeting professionals, but had plenty of best practices for anyone looking for more tailored and complete responses to their RFPs.
Palm emphasized that planners need to standardize their RFPs in order to make objective comparisons easier and also to quickly see what information is missing from a hotel. Every RFP should have the basics: company profile, program description, program history, and the agenda at a glance. Be concise and don’t use jargon, she said. Not everyone outside the pharma industry knows what an HCP or a KOL is.
Location. Be specific about the type of property you’re looking for—or avoiding. Are airport properties ok? How far from the airport is acceptable? Many pharmaceutical companies cannot use resorts, and if that’s the case, spell it out. Don’t ask hotels to waste time bidding on a meeting that’s a bad fit.
Dates. In the RFP, list your meeting dates and whether or not those dates are flexible. Rather than just the date (for example, “April 9”), a best practice is to include the day of the week in your RFP as an accuracy check (for example, “Monday, April 9”).
F&B. For life sciences planners who organize HCP meetings with restrictive F&B caps, make your needs clear. Let the hotel know your limits and request that the F&B pricing be inclusive of taxes and service fees.
Meeting space. If you need 24-hour holds on your meeting space, the hotel needs to know that up front. But if your meeting, like many in the life sciences space, is asking for low-prices on F&B and a high ratio of meeting space to guest rooms, consider it carefully. You want to do what you can to avoid being the “ugly baby” meeting that no hotel wants to touch. Does every meeting room need a 24-hour hold?
Non-compete clauses. If your organization has non-compete requirements that limit who else can hold meetings in the hotel concurrent with your event, include that in the RFP. Is it just one or two key competitors? Just medical device companies? Anyone in the pharmaceutical space? Be specific and include a list of competing companies with the RFP if possible.
Billing. If it’s important to your company, spell out how billing needs to happen for your reporting system.
Here are seven more tips to ensure that your RFPs get the job done:
• Confirm your communication preferences.
• Include a due date for the RFP.
• Request a hotel contact.
• Define the currency of the proposal.
• Ask what unions operate in the hotel.
• Ask whether the hotel has preferred vendors, including destination management companies and audiovisual providers.
• Proof twice, send once: Did you include all your breakout space? Do you have your days and dates right?
Perhaps Palm’s most general, but important, advice was to take time with your RFP, making sure potential hotel partners have an accurate picture of your group and all the information they need to accurately bid. Quoting basketball coach Bobby Knight, she said, “The will to succeed is important but what is more important is the will to prepare.”