Responding to an RFP can be a daunting task, especially in the sports market. Yet, tackling an RFP piece-by-piece can make the process easier and, hopefully, yield lucrative results.
The first thing you need to do is make sure that the requirements are a good fit for your destination. Read the RFP thoroughly to see if you have the items needed to place a bid. The bare bones necessary are the venues, hotel space, volunteer availability, expertise of a Local Organizing Committee (LOC) and a plan to deal with bid fees. If you have any questions, pick up the phone and call the planner. A phone call will go a long way, and allows you to find out what the hot button issues are. In some cases, what you might think is important actually may be unimportant for the planner. Always ask the question. For example, if a bid specifies that your fields need to have lights but yours don’t, ask the planner if lack of lights is a deal breaker. Another example might be that a client prefers Hilton properties, but the bulk of your rooms are with Marriott. If this happens, let the client know, and check to see if this will be an issue for the bid.
One of the most important steps in this process is to check the history of the event you are bidding on. The best way to do this is to talk to the CVBs or Sports Commissions in cities that have hosted the event in the past. Ask them about venues used, hotel pickup and if there were any challenges with the event operator. Make sure to find out if they had any overall problems with the event. This information is very valuable, and will help you in the RFP process. It is important to also check the geographical history of the event – has the event ever occurred in your region? Some events are a better fit to certain areas of the country- what works in the South might not work as well in the North. It’s fine to let a client know that you have researched their event. It shows that you are thorough and helps keep them transparent and communicative.
Many destinations cannot afford – or simply won’t pay – bid fees. Many times, a bid fee can be circumvented by offering concessions instead. A list of concessions is usually provided along with the bid fee. These can include complimentary hotel rooms, airline tickets, rental cars etc. Only the sales person and the destination marketing or sports organization can determine if you can address their concessions. Perhaps you can form a partnership with a local rental car agency to get a reduced weekly rate in exchange for agency being listed as the sponsor. Airlines can be a bit challenging, however contact your local hub, they may be willing to work with you. Utilize relationships with the hotels in the area to obtain comp rooms for the proposal. Some events will require two or more hotels to fill the comps. Always make sure the comp policy is consistent across hotels listed in the proposal.
Once you have collected all of the information required for the bid, prepare to submit the proposal. If you have not been able to meet all the concessions, it is still okay to submit. Several things can happen at this point. One response may be, that, although the concessions were not completely met, the facilities may be a better fit for the event. Another response could be a flat out no, however the organizer now is aware what you are able to do and may come back for future events.
It is important to ask for decision dates as a part of the proposal submission. If it is not specifically addressed in the RFP, make sure to ask. This allows organizations to hold space at facilities until decision time. Some facilities will place the space on “hold” for a certain number of days and give the event planner the “right of refusal” for the dates. In that case the organization on “hold” will have to go to contract and send a deposit for the space. Some organizations will request a site visit as a part of the decision process. With years of experience, it is safe to say a site visit should typically last two days to include venue and hotel options.
John Gibbons, CSEE
Executive Director of the RI Sports Commission
Ron Eifert, CSEE
Senior Sales Manager
Dayton Convention & Visitors Bureau