Congratulations! So your team has decided that it’s time to partner with a travel management company! Now, for the easy step of finding the right TMC to hire. One that meshes with your company’s values, understands your needs, provides superior support, and all at the right cost for your CEO. It’s not so simple when you put it that way, right?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help streamline the process. Our sales team knows their way around a travel management RFP. Heck, our team on average has more than 20 years of experience specifically in the travel agency! Along the way, we’ve seen the process go smoothly for some, but also pretty rough for others. That’s why we’ve compiled our best tips and tricks to use throughout the RFP process. Hopefully, it will help to streamline your needs and objectives, while avoiding some of the biggest hurdles you may encounter—before, during, and after your request for proposals.
Before sending out travel management RFPs to potential TMCs
This is where we usually see companies have the most difficulty. The overall idea is to send out the RFP, see who responds, and then pick the cream of the crop, right? Wrong! When utilizing this approach, most companies miss the most important step—pinpointing their needs first. Without this, these companies typically find themselves overwhelmed and drowning in proposals. It’s more valuable to take the time to sit down to evaluate your needs before sending out requests. Then you can appropriately set the stage for a productive RFP process.
- Discuss internally with your team. You might be surprised to find previously unknown travel struggles within other departments of your company. Create an open dialogue with heads of all departments, as well as your frequent travelers. Discuss existing issues that they currently face and ideas for improvement. Without fully understanding your company’s travel weaknesses, you can’t effectively evaluate possible solutions.
- Measure twice, cut once. Thoroughly understand your goals, objectives and values before researching travel management companies. Like the old adage says, ‘measure twice, cut once’. It’s better to go in without any doubts, than to have to start all over again.
- Start talking to TMCs. Get a chance to ‘swipe right’ or ‘swipe left’ before going through a multi-page report on the company. Read their website, call for specific questions, and ask others for referrals. Narrow down your prospects before sending out the request for proposal. Why waste your time if you know off the bat that it’s not a good fit?
- Request for the TMC’s standard proposal. Pro Tip: Avoid writing your own questions and ask the TMCs for their standard proposal instead! This is a summary of their services, benefits, technology solutions, etc. From these you can get an overview of their company, use as a starting place to ask additional questions, or find ideas for your proposal if needed.
- Send out an RFI (Request For Information). Similar to an RFP, it’s typically shorter and to the point. From these responses you can quickly evaluate the TMC’s values, and create a shortlist of companies to continue communication. In fact, we’ve found that some companies are able to make their final decision just from requesting these RFIs or the TMC’s standard proposal.
- Evaluate your existing travel management RFP, if available. Have you previously written an RFP for travel management? If so, read it over before sending out again. You’ll likely be surprised by the extent of change in the industry or within your company during that time. Though it’s a great place to start, ensure it still aligns with your current needs. Or, if using an RFP from a different department, it should go through a comprehensive edit to remove anything that doesn’t apply to travel. You’d be surprised by how often we get RFPs with questions focused on things like manufacturing specifications!
- If publishing a timeline in your RFP, make sure it’s realistic. We all have high hopes at the beginning of a large project. The RFP process takes longer than you think—and that’s before considering internal communications and other projects on your plate. In this case, give you and your team some leeway. Think of a practical time frame your company can hit, then pad it with an additional week. It’s always better to exceed expectations, than to play catch up, right?
Is this your first time creating a RFP for travel management? Check out these additional tips and tricks:
- Don’t be nervous to ask for RFP guidance or ideas from TMCs. Being well-versed in answering RFPs, they know the commonly asked questions, specific tips, and even topics you might not have considered along the way. Talking with someone else in the industry might also help you align your goals and motives for your RFP.
- Ask for a few good questions from each TMC. This helps you understand what is important overall in the industry. Plus, this technique usually provides insight into the company’s value propositions. It’s an easy way to create questions for your RFP, gain insight into perspective TMCs, and even weed out a few that don’t align.
- Ask industry colleagues to recycle their old RFPs. They will understand the time and energy it takes to create one from scratch. While you’re at it, ask them for additional tips or recommendations.
During the travel management RFP process
- Remember that price is important, but not the bottom line. There’s a reason why proposals are more than just a pricing sheet. Budget is important, but if it’s at the cost of limited support or ineffective communication, is it really worth it? In some cases, you might find yourself going out to bid in a year or two if you don’t examine these other important factors. Instead, try looking at your corporate travel from a holistic view. Quality service and support, vendor relationships, additional partnerships, reporting, risk management support, etc., should all be considered when determining the right fit for your company.
- During the process, ask additional questions. If something doesn’t make sense in an RFP or looks different from other companies, don’t be afraid to ask. The company will be more than happy to explain what they’re offering and any additional benefits for your company. What may originally look like a negative, may actually be a positive. You would have never known if you didn’t ask.
- Stay communicative about the timeline and if there are any delays. Things don’t usually go as planned when it comes to big projects like this, right? Especially if there are multiple departments involved or executive approval. It’s often easier to just be upfront about changes in the timeline and communicate realistic dates. If not, you can expect follow-up calls and emails from the various TMCs trying to understand the delay.
After the travel management RFP process
How exciting! You’ve selected your TMC! They should now be working with you on the implementation process.
Post interview/evaluation with the TMCs you didn’t select. This step is often overlooked by both companies and TMCs. It gives you a chance to explain why you didn’t select their services, but also can help to benefit your future RFPs.
The travel management proposal process may be a worthwhile and rewarding practice for an organization seeking to improve their travel program. Starting with an internal evaluation of your company’s needs and expectations will prepare you to engage with TMCs. In the process, you may find that a standard proposal or RFI provides the insight and direction you need to make the right decision for your company, or identify that you have the basis for a formal RFP.
If you have any additional questions about the travel management RFP process or Christopherson’s consultative approach and advanced solutions (utilize tip #3, right?), please contact our sales team.
Bonus: Download our travel management RFP template to use as a starting place. Just remember to edit and adjust to the needs of your company: