Top five tips for businesses when preparing for RFP

Top five tips for businesses when preparing for RFP

RFP season is fast approaching. Whether you’re currently looking for a new partner or it’s something you'll be considering further down the track, it always pays to be prepared.  

We’ve asked experts from across the Travel Counsellors’ community, and the wider industry, what advice they would give to help prepare for an RFP.  

Here are our top five tips: 

1. Start with 'why' 

Knowing why you are undertaking an RFP process is probably the most crucial aspect of preparation. Not only will it help you to define goals and objectives for the RFP process, but it will ensure that those goals are aligned with the wider business values.  

“The clients that stand out to me are those that have clear goals for their travel provider, in particular, those that look beyond cost. Those RFP processes are always the most successful.” Clare Bennett, Travel Counsellor - Gold 

To know your goals, and to align them to your purpose, you need to assess your current travel programme’s performance. Gathering data on travel spend, compliance, traveller satisfaction, and any other major pain points will help you identify areas for improvement and set clear objectives for the RFP. 

“You have to do a deep-dive analysis of the current programme that you have in place. You have to look at the supplier that you’re working with and consider whether they actually provide all of the services that are going to be required for your travellers.” – Carol Peter, Travel and Expense Management Consultant, Festive Road

And of course, once you know your 'why' and have established your goals and objectives, communicating these to the TMCs is essential. 

“Sharing goals is the most important part of an RFP, otherwise it just becomes a pricing exercise. We need to understand why they are coming out to RFP. This should be a two-way process and a lot of clients don’t always recognise the value in that.” Louise Jones, Senior Business Development Manager 

2. Find your team 

Consulting with key stakeholders such as finance, HR, and frequent travellers will give you insight into the differing needs and priorities of the business, ensuring the RFP addresses all relevant aspects. 

“I’d recommend walking in the shoes of the travellers from their end-to-end journey. Look at all the different challenges that may come up. Getting feedback not just from stakeholders, but the travellers and travel bookers is so important, as they’ll be able to give you an honest insight into what challenges they face day-to-day.” – Carol Peter, Travel and Expense Management Consultant, Festive Road 
“Any RFP needs the booking community involved, but remember - all parties involved may want different things. You need to know how you are going to make the decision and who has the final call.” Louise Jones, Senior Business Development Manager  

You need to ensure that you have a strong, multi-discipline team that understands your long-term business aims and short-term strategic goals.  

“It’s hard to say how many are too many on an RFP team, but regardless of numbers, they must be aligned on shared goals and agree on when a project is to be delivered.” Clare Bennett, Travel Counsellor - Gold

3. Give yourself time

When it comes to preparing for a successful RFP, time is of the essence.  

“We are seeing a lot of late request RFPs at the moment. Although it sounds like a long time, giving yourself 12 months is ideal.” Cat Rainey, Travel Counsellor - MICE, Group Travel and Events 

These timescales include everything: all of the foundation work mentioned above, plus your research time, internal stakeholder discussions and consultation, as well as the time it takes for the TMC to respond to the RFP and the subsequent vetting process.  

Providing a sample timeline for the RFP process, from initial planning to final decision, is an effective way to help suppliers understand the time commitment and stages involved. 

“One of the biggest RFP disasters I see is clients not being realistic in timings. I have found that those who set short deadlines will often miss them, which extends the next step and creates a domino effect. Setting a reasonable timeframe and including contingencies for staff absence, other business priorities and plenty of time for suppliers to do the best job they can, is key.” Clare Bennett, Travel Counsellor - Gold 

4. Get to know the market 

Taking the time to understand the business travel market will help you to make the right decisions when it comes to inviting TMCs to participate in the RFP process.  

“It’s always great when a client knows what they want in a new provider and explains where they think we can help them. They don’t dilute the process with 15 TMCs – they do their research for suitable companies and then move forward with an RFP.” Joe Higson, Business Development Manager 

Having a clear idea of the suppliers in your market space, those with whom you share similar values and culture, can really help to narrow down your potential supplier list and focus your process.  

Similarly, conducting industry benchmarks to help understand where your programme stands in comparison to others can provide valuable insights and guide what you should expect from a TMC. 

5. Clear and concise requirements 

Clarity, on all sides of the process, was a recurring theme from our experts. Everybody involved in the RFP process – internally and externally – wants the best possible outcome.  

Well-defined requirements and expectations will lead to more accurate and relevant responses from TMCs, which in turn gives clients more accurate information from which to make a decision. 

“Where the process works best is when there is great communication. The client communicates well with you, provides detail about their problems, explains their goals, and knows what they want in a new provider.” Joe Higson, Business Development Manager 

RFPs can be a huge undertaking. But with the right level of planning and preparation, the whole process can become far more manageable and successful.   

In short, follow the advice of our business travel experts and make sure you: 

  • Know your purpose 
  • Surround yourself with the right people 
  • Give yourself plenty of time 
  • Understand the marketplace 
  • Be clear on your requirements 

And be sure to keep an eye out for our next blog on how to navigate the RFP process. 

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