“Time is a big challenge.”
As these words come from the mouth of a group seller at a conference center, everyone around her nods in agreement. Group sellers today feel a shared sympathy for having enough time in the day to manage a hectic job. Meetings, site visits, follow-up calls with planners, active prospecting — all of this takes a tremendous amount of time. On top of that, there’s responding to inbound eRFPs. What was once a way to streamline booking processes has become a laborious, time-consuming challenge for group sellers, as well as the planners awaiting responses.
How did the eRFP process become so burdensome for group sellers and planners alike? When the first eRFP platform launchedin 1995, it streamlined the way planners could connect with hotels and other venues. eRFP systems made more venue options visible and accessible for planners, while hotels enjoyed inbound inquiries without having to search for them.
However, because eRFP technology has become incredibly easy-to-use and omnipresent, it’s also become easy to abuse. Planners can send dozens of RFPs without being seriously committed to them. When this happens, floods of eRFPs pour into hotels, burying hoteliers under a mountain of requests they then have to sort through and respond to. Many of these requests are unqualified “lead spam” that aren’t likely to materialize.
With all the data and technology available today, shouldn’t there be a way to make it easier for hotels to be matched to groups that are an ideal fit for their space and meet their desired parameters?
The future of group prospecting needs to veer away from reliance on RFPs and move toward a data-focused approach. For many years now, companies like Knowland have been collecting data on actualized meeting activity in markets worldwide. This data is helpful for researching potential opportunities, but still requires enough manual effort to make it difficult to incorporate into a daily routine for group sellers who are crunched for time.
Moving forward, group data technology needs to automate the analysis and delivery of group opportunities. Feeding off existing vast databases of meetings and events information, algorithms can be used to analyze historical booking patterns of groups and map their preferences to a hotel’s specific parameters. Furthermore, technology has the power to be able to score opportunities for a hotel to tell them how likely that opportunity is to materialize for them. These pre-qualified group opportunities can then be automatically pushed to a hotel so sales teams have higher quality leads delivered directly to them.
In an age of technology, data and science can provide solutions that increase efficiencies and make work easier by taking away the heavy lifting of manual tasks. Technology should be part of the solution, not a pain point for group sellers looking to book qualified opportunities. In the words of the same conference center group seller, “It’s hard to keep up with, but you have to actively prospect to build new things up in your pipeline.” As group business operations shift away from reliance on eRFPs and toward more data-driven, prescriptive solutions, day-to-day tasks will be easier to keep up with, proactive prospecting will be more automated, better qualified leads will be more readily available, and everyone can get some time back in their day.
What would make your job easier? Click here to tell us what you think the future of group data technology should do for you and learn more about what’s possible.