April 22, 2024

10 ways to ease the pain of an RFP

If you’re about to embark on an RFP, here are 10 top tips to help you get the best result

Even before pandemic pressures came along, the TMC RFP was a process neither side enjoyed. Described as a “pain point” in a recent White Paper by the Business Travel Association, RFPs can be costly, time-consuming, unnecessarily complex and often not fit for purpose. 

As business travel comes back, what you want and need from your TMC might have changed considerably, but with reduced resources on both sides it’s more vital than ever to get the selection process right. If you’re about to embark on an RFP, here are 10 top tips to help you get the best result. 

1. Engage with stakeholders

In order to understand how your travel needs have changed, speak to all the relevant people and departments within your business, such as HR, IT, finance, security, C-Suites, PAs and, of course, your frequent travellers. Ask them what is currently working well and what isn’t.

2. Establish your priorities

Based on these conversations, draw up a list of your key requirements and decide what is a ‘nice to have’ and a ‘must have’.  Rank your requirements in order of priority.

3. Share the current pain points 

Even if you’re not 100% sure what you need from a new TMC, if you’re going out to tender you will hopefully have a good idea of what’s wrong with your current one. Don’t be afraid to share this with your new prospects. Be honest. It will help them understand what you require and know whether they can make a difference.

4. Don’t jump straight in

Make sure your first interaction with a potential TMC partner is not sending the RFP. Make contact first, even if it’s just a phone call, but ideally meet face-to-face. In the new era, this is likely to be more than just a transactional relationship so culture fit is key.

5. Keep it relevant

Keep your RFP document to a size that reflects the size and complexities of your travel account. There’s no point asking hundreds of questions and requesting tonnes of information unless it’s going to be useful, particularly when time and resources are precious. Try to avoid using a standard template too. Each company’s requirements will be different so it doesn’t make sense to send a standard RFP document containing irrelevant questions.

6. Make use of virtual and video

Meeting in person is clearly ideal, but make use of virtual technology if you want to gain access to more people within the TMC, such as teams in different parts of the country or overseas. Consider accepting video proposals too. It will help you get a better feel for the company’s culture and whether it will fit with yours. 

7. Be realistic

Be mindful that responding to an RFP is a huge task for TMCs, particularly in the current climate where they’ve had to scale back on their teams and resources are low. Responding to an RFP can require a big investment and for potentially no return, so be realistic with timeframes and the amount of information you require.

8. Try before you buy

If possible, spend some time in the TMC’s offices to get a feel for the company culture. You’ll know very quickly if it’s a culture that suits your own. Ask if you can contact some of the TMC’s existing clients to ask for their feedback. You’ll get a more honest response than a written reference. Test a TMC by creating a scenario, perhaps asking them to evaluate and suggest how you can improve a particular aspect of your travel programme.

9. Keep up to speed

Mergers and acquisitions have stepped up in the pandemic so keep track of what’s happening in the TMC landscape by reading the trade press. If you’ve got a TMC in mind, put their name into the search button on The Business Travel Magazine‘s website, thebusinesstravelmag.com, to see recent developments, such as changes of ownership, key appointments or investment in new products. And, of course, use our annual TMC Guide and Directory. 

10. Don’t get fixated with pricing 

Negotiating pricing can be the most complex and time-consuming part of the RFP process so unless your relationship will be purely transactional leave it until as late as possible in the selection process, when you will have a better idea of who the strongest contenders are. 

The Business Travel Magazine‘s 2022 TMC Guide and Directory is out now.