How To Respond To An RFP In One Hour (Or Less)

Prepping vegetables before cookingDo you know what a prep cook does at a restaurant?

Of course you do.

A prep cook is the one that gets the most popular ingredients in a kitchen ready before the restaurant opens for business.

He chops up the onions, creates the base used in the entrees, and even prepares some of the restaurants signature sauces. And he does this ahead of time so the food can go out fast. Because if the food goes out sloe, customers will be dissatisfied..

Much like the prep cook, we need to get portions of our group proposal ready even before we receive the RFP. Doing so will allow us to complete most RFP’s in less than an hour.

But does response time really affect the outcome of my proposal?

Not only does it affect it, you put yourself in a huge hole when you don’t respond quickly. In a recent interview, Bryan Rosenberg of mentioned that hotels responding to RFPs “within 24 hours book more business than hotels that take 48 hours or longer to respond. In fact, in the time it takes for a sales person and a revenue manager to have internal discussions about a group booking, the client may have already booked another property”.

It’s simple: Waiting too long to respond reduces your chances of getting that business.

So how do you respond quickly?

Much like the prep cook at the diner, you need to have all the basic ingredients of your proposal prepared ahead of time. So when the RFP rolls into your email box, you are ready to start cooking, rather than chopping the onions, and parsley.

The three ingredients that can be prepared ahead of time are the proposal templates, a rate grid and standard proposal language. And here is how to prepare each one:

  1. Design templates by group type, not by the size of the group
  2. Set up rate rules so you know what rates to offer
  3. Save all the legal clauses in one folder for easy copy/paste

Let’s start with the templates

1-Design templates by group type, not by the size of the group

Most sales managers already know to use templates when they create proposals. However, the problem with most proposal templates is that they are created with group size in mind. So you’ll have one proposal template for a small group, one for large groups. The problem with sized based proposals is that they end up being too generic. Or if we try to customize them, they end up taking a long time to complete.

Instead, we should have proposal templates for each group type that we frequently do business with. So if the top five groups that visited our hotels were family reunions, weddings, corporate trainings, sports teams, and construction crews, then we would create a separate proposal template for each one (and use a generic proposal for the rest).

This way you will minimize the time spent on customizing each proposal while making each one more relevant.

And the more relevant you sound in your proposal, the better your chances of winning the bid

As an example, a class reunion proposal would have a section on “cool hangouts” that classmates may remember and a corporate meeting proposal could have a section on high end restaurants nearby with directions. This level of customization will show the group planner that you took the time to personalize the proposal (and that your competitors did not).

But creating a bunch of templates will only take you so far. Deciding on what group rate to offer is another bottleneck.

2-Set up rate rules so you know what rates to offer

One of the biggest reasons why group sales managers don’t respond quickly is because they are not allowed to quote rates without approval from their DOS (Director of sales). And while that certainly can put a damper on your speed, there is something you can do about it.

Consider creating rate rules that are defined by “If/Then” logic. For example, here is a sample set of rate rules we use at one of our hotels.

  • If occupancy is less than 30%, give 30% off rack
  • If occupancy is between 30-50%, give 20% off rack
  • If occupancy is between 50-70%, give 15% off
  • And if occupancy is between 70-85%, then give 10% off.
  • Finally, if occupancy, is over 85%, then turn down the business and refer to ____ hotel.

While the rules above are a bit too simplistic, they do give us a start in the right direction. By having a clear set of instructions for what rates can be offered when, a bottleneck will be removed from the system, making you that much faster in your responses.

But before we can send out that proposal, we need to add some legal clauses.

3-Only add legal clauses that will effect the customer

So how can you go for speed when you have to customize the legal end of each proposal. Well, for one thing, don’t do what many of the other hotels do. They have two to three pages of legalese in every proposal with everything including the kitchen sink mentioned. This kind of language at the end of a proposal makes it very annoying for planners to have to wade through.

Instead, create templates for each scenario

For example, here are three separate clauses that you can use for attrition:

  • There is an 80% attrition rate on your room block. The attrition rate is the percentage of sleeping rooms that have to be ‘picked up’ (i.e. reserved) by your guests at the hotel. If that percentage of the rooms is not used, then the hotel will charge you the difference.
  • The attrition rate for your room block will be 80%. If the hotel resells the “rooms not picked up” at a price that is equal to and above the agreed upon price, then guest will not be charged an attrition fee.
  • There is no attrition charge in this contract. Your room block is an open room block and as such, we will not be holding you responsible for unused rooms.

The clauses above have very different outcomes and you will use all three at some point in time. So why not have all three ready in a “legal clauses” folder on your desktop.

Moreover, you should do the same for the cut-off period, deposit amount, comp ratio and all the other legal mumbo jumbo we have to attach in our proposals. As you are filling out your proposal template, you can add whichever pre-written clause you need by just copying and pasting from a library of clauses.

Doing the above three things will make it very simple for you to be able to respond to proposals quickly.

But in trying to go fast, won’t there be lots of mistakes

After all, aren’t we taught that rushing will result in careless errors. Rather than rushing, we are taught to take it slow to avoid making mistakes.

While that may be true in other things, we would argue that the three suggestions above will actually help you minimize any mistakes. Using templates, and clauses will reduce the amount of time you spend customizing, and that alone will lower the number of errors that are far too common in many of our group proposals.

In summary, responding to most RFP’s should not take more than an hour

If you can create templates for each group type, use rate rules and put together a library of clauses, you should be able to respond to over 95% of all RFP’s in less than an hour.

With the time you’ll save, you may even be able to chop some onions for dinner.

What should you do next?

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