Incentive Travel and Event Planning: Responding to Third Party RFPs

Most 3rd party planners who outsource work to other planners have high ethical standards. Unfortunately, there are some pitfalls to avoid when you receive a request for quote from a third party planner (instead of directly from the client). When responding to third party RFPs, there is nothing to prevent:

  • the third party planner from going directly to suppliers after the site searchs and other time-consuming legwork has been done
  • the client from cutting everyone out…..including the original third party planner and going directly to hotels, tourist attractions and private dining
  • the third party planner or client from sharing the excellent ideas farmed from an experienced planner with an inexperienced (read that less expensive) planner.

How do you spot a third party planner who is dealing in good faith? Here are a few things to look for. There is full disclosure and transparency as well as early contact with the client. At times the client has made the initial contact and brought their travel agent or third party event planner of record into the loop after an initial conversation.

I have followed up with the client when a number of requests for inquiries by third party planners have gone south. With few exceptions, it has turned out that one of the following scenarios was at play:

  • The third party event planner was not authorized to involve other planners.
  • The third party event planner had not yet been engaged for the event.
  • The inquiry was speculative at best (the client was only thinking about having the event).
  • The client had never heard of the third party planner.
  • A student was gathering information for a term paper.
  • A prospective employee was applying for a job with the company and wanted to produce a sample for their portfolio.

Asking the following questions can ensure that you don’t invest a lot of time in inquiries that are merely just an attempt to come between you and your intellectual property.

  • Who is the client?If the person contacting you will not provide the name of the client, this is a major red flag. Offer to sign a non-compete agreement. If the third party still won’t reveal the client. Pass on the opportunity.
  • Has the client already selected you as the planner for this event or is the selection process still in progress?Only provide RFPs to other event planning firms after they have been selected.
  • If you have not been selected, how many other event planners has the client contacted?
  • Have you done any other business with this client?If yes, what type of events have you organized for them? Why are they conducting a search?
  • To how many other event planners are you submitting this request?If it is more than two, the likelihood of being awarded the business is low and you may want to pass on the opportunity. If the 3rd party planner won’t answer this question, this is another huge red flag.

If you are not satisfied with the answers to these questions, insist on a brief three-way conversation with the client, request a deductible retainer or invest minimal time in responding to the inquiry until you are certain it is bonafide. Do not conduct site or supplier searches without the name of the client and a retainer or a signed contract. It is sometimes better to pass on opportunities instead of educating competitors or burning your good will with event venues and other suppliers.

Photo Credit: xdmag


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