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Swamped by short RFP turnaround times?

An industry veteran’s advice: we’d better get used to it

By Grant Snider, DMCP

If planners feel turnaround time is getting shorter and shorter, imagine what life is like for destination management companies (DMCs) like JPdL that have a wide client base and are further down the RFP food chain. We’re seeing two distinct trends: ever shorter turnaround times and prolonged selling cycles that leave little time for proper program execution.

For example, we recently had two days' notice to price, contract and execute a week-long series of events! On the flip side, other mandates have lingered in the proposal/pricing phase for six or more months only to be confirmed several weeks before the program start.

Is there someone or something to blame?
On a personal level, we expect and love the ability to search for and buy services online with instantaneous results. Amazon will typically ship to your door the next business day. With iTunes, you can purchase music, TV shows and movies within seconds or minutes. So why shouldn’t our customers in the meeting and incentive business enjoy the same efficiencies and speed of execution from their supplier partners?

While many of the transactions in our personal world have sped up, the pace of business decision-making seems to have slowed down, perhaps as uncertain economic conditions make managers and other “meeting owners” unwilling to commit to an event until as late as possible.

How has the industry reacted?
Technological innovations have allowed everyone supporting the industry to respond with previously unheard-of quickness. We consistently deliver with heroic speed and little complaint.

But technology can also mask inefficiencies. If we ask our employees to absorb these systemic bottlenecks, they will pay the price with higher stress and compa­nies will pay the price with higher turnover and related HR issues.

We need to use every tool possible to streamline the RFP process and other operational parts of our businesses. And we also need to implement strategies that reflect the current business context. That means saying no to certain types of requests that we might have accepted in the past. It means enhancing our own supplier B2B relationships and processes to set up everyone for success. It means tightening up training and internal procedures to ensure everyone knows how to deliver in spite of the insanely short timelines.

Some complain that “the system is broken” and we need to “take a stand” and stop this negative trend. I say we’d better get used to it and adapt because it’s only going to continue.

Do you have a differing opinion about RFP turnaround times? Share your views on our Facebook page.

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Langdon Hall, Cambridge, ON