Operations

How To Correctly Deal With RFPs

Lexi Tucker
Posted on September 5, 2018
(l to r) Bill Faeth brought up operators Nina Parson and Mike Barreto to discuss the proper and most efficient way to deal with RFPs (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

(l to r) Bill Faeth brought up operators Nina Parson and Mike Barreto to discuss the proper and most efficient way to deal with RFPs (Photo credit: Blake Russell).

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Limo University Founder Bill Faeth moderated a talk on request for proposals (RFPs) with Mike Barreto of Eagle Chauffeured Services in Brookhaven, Penn. and Nina Parson of Company Car and Limousine in Cleveland, Ohio that focused on the importance of knowing when pursuing business is worth the work that goes into it.

To RFP Or Not To RFP

Faeth said “how do I get into the RFP game?” is one of the top 10 questions he receives from operators. “I tell everybody you don't want to be. I think there's a lot of marginalization based on price. They're very time consuming to have to put together. A lot of them are very robust.”

However, if you’re going to go after RFPs, there are a few techniques that might be able to make the hustle a little more worth it. Faeth advocates creating templates. “To create efficiency, have you taken all past RFPs won or lost and created your own templates to expedite the process when you're doing a different RFP? I'm not saying you're just going to template and submit it; you're going to customize, but this makes it easier and quicker.”

Parson said she doesn’t just have a template for an RFP, but close to 50 templates saved in her email as responses she can customize. “You often get the same answers, or you hear the same thing if somebody's price driven. You need to have a price-driven response on how to beat that out because you're not going to be the cheapest person in the pool.”

She monitors what is being said, what customers are looking for, and how to overcome objections. “I came from the hotel industry. I was a regional director of sales. I'm used to 30 or 40 other hotels in the same area. You have to know how to gauge and sell your property better than the rest, and I brought that experience into this position.”

Barreto says the one thing he likes about RFPs is how there is a rhythm to how they come out. “Most people now in procurement have gone the way of using the template the GBTA has put out for the RFP which is about eight years old. It makes it a lot easier to understand the flow because they don't add their little wrinkle or variation specific to their markets they're looking for. But overall the template's usually the same.”

Electronic RFP vs. Creating And Sending A Proposal

The process for creating an RFP is intense. “They need to know every little minute piece of information. But a proposal is really just advertising your business. You're sending out your marketing piece and explaining the value of the pricing. It's different from the deep down details you need on an RFP. On a lot of my proposals I send my insurance information as part of my packet; that's not any extra work for me. But for the RFP process, you have to be prepared to give as much detail as possible because that's what they're looking for,” said Parson.

Barreto finds it’s best to not overextend yourself on RFP questions and answers. “Don't give more than they're asking, because travel managers will look at it first and then it goes to procurement, and procurement's made up of a bunch of number crunchers and analytics people. So they'll look, and if you don't answer conformed to what everyone else in the RFP is answering, they'll disqualify you.”

He compares RFPs to knocking on the door of an unknown person's house. Them accepting an RFP and going to the next phase is getting them to open the door. “You're going to be knocking on a lot of doors and no one's going to open them for you. Give them information that pertains to what they are looking for —what their expectation is and what you want to give. As far as proposals go, I close much more on proposals than I do going through the RFP process because I'm getting that interaction with the actual key buyers. They want to hear exactly what value your company is going to provide. They want to know what makes you different from everybody else. The RFP is really semantics in this day and age.”

RFP Strategizing

Parson tries to build a relationship with the person or people who send the RFPs to her. She wants to meet expectations early because she doesn’t want to waste their time or hers. “I ask them up front, ‘what are you looking for? What's my market cap?’ and I’ll flat out tell them, ‘I am not a good fit for you,’ and that's okay to do and move on. Otherwise you're going to submit all your information and they’ll say ‘okay, well, you and XYZ have these prices and they're a little lower but we like your service,’ and it's just bartering back and forth, which is time consuming and unnecessary.”

Whenever Barreto goes into an RFP, he needs to know exactly who he’s bidding against. “I need to know where my bottom line number is going to be in order for it to be profitable. I need to understand if  the RFP for local business only, or if I’m getting the opportunity to make money off of my affiliated international or global work.  At that point, I need to identify who the other competitors are in that market.”

If it’s specifically in your market, figure out a way to find out who's currently servicing that contract. Call up that competitor and do some research.

To give her an extra edge, Parson plans on taking the CSEP test to become a certified special events professional. She doesn’t necessarily need it, but it will give her credibility to other special events professionals. “I also sit in a class with 14 other people who are taking it who are going to be certified special events professionals, so it gives me credibility going forward that they're just going to submit it to me instead of going around this whole RFP process.”

Barreto has been a part of several different boards, headed up commissions, and even created discovery groups to help out regulators in the city just so he could obtain some notoriety in certain circles to be the first company they call. “To get everything away from not being an RFP is so relationship driven,” he said.

Related Topics: Bill Faeth, corporate business, Corporate RFPs, corporate travel, group transportation, group travel, How To, industry education, industry events, LAB Live, Limo U, limousine packages, Mike Barreto

Lexi Tucker Senior Editor
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