by By Michael J. Shapiro | May 01, 2013

Don't keep secretsLeong-Lyons understands why some planners prefer to call everything a "must." Why call one item less important, when the hotel otherwise might have included it in the package? "I get that. But I don't think it's an issue of us really wanting or not wanting to give anything. If we don't have all the information that we need about what's most important to you, it's difficult for us to give you back something meaningful."

It's important to hotels to return an impressive proposal, she stresses. "You might still tell us no at the end of the day. But if it's meaningful, you'll still trust us, and you'll still pick us the next time you're sourcing a meeting."

Mike Mason suggests that some of the detail can be saved for phase two, when the playing field is narrowed. "For instance, if there's a contract addendum that's super important, put that in the RFP, along with some of your key concessions. Then let them know there will be some more requests if they make the short list. It's when you narrow the results that they should really do the work," he adds.

Maintain communicationNo matter how detailed the RFP, salespeople often have questions. Planners who can respond promptly and succinctly set the right tone for future interactions. "Those planners tend to get the most attention," says Dominguez, "because they're being very responsive to the questions and the needs of the people at the hotel."

Communication throughout the process is essential, adds Starwood's Christie Hicks. "It builds a level of engagement that is needed to differentiate you from the price-shopping eRFPs that our hotels are receiving on a daily basis," she says.

This level of engagement is incredibly important for salespeople, adds Mason, and something that many planners underestimate. "Make sure you keep communicating with the hotel," he advises. "Communicate without being asked."

Many salespeople meet daily with their directors of sales to review potential business. When salespeople don't have regular updates about a lead, the sales director stops asking about it. "They stop talking about you," adds Mason. "When they stop talking about you, you're irrelevant to the hotel. When that happens, you lose everything."

Reach out to tell them they're still in the running, even when you don't have new information. "This lends itself to a much more successful negotiation," Mason explains. "You create a relationship with the salesperson that then engages them when you go into negotiations. You kept them in the loop; they appreciate that and they will fight hard for you."

Take the time to say no"More than 78 percent of the leads salespeople get today just dissolve," says Mason. "They never know what happened. Once you've made the decision, tell everyone who was in the running. Make sure they know so they can all move on. Don't leave them hanging. It's a great way to respect their time."

Closing this loop goes beyond just the respect for a particular salesperson; it's a way to ensure the leads coming from your organization get attention in the future. "Some organizations never confirm whether the meeting was booked or what happened to it," Dominguez notes. "That doesn't build credibility in the hotel's perspective." Planners need only to alert the channel that the meeting was booked, he adds, for the lead to be closed in the system.

Keep it humanMost important, remember that there is a person on the other end assessing the RFP. As advanced and streamlined as the RFP submittal process has become, it is a tool to facilitate interpersonal commerce. "You have to humanize that interaction," notes Mike Mason. "And salespeople are desperate for it. They're desperate for the connection, for something other than adjusting the RFP fields that come through."