Where to start? The first step in creating a preferred supplier program is to partner with your procurement department — if you have one. Together you will draft detailed Request for Information (RFI) and Request for Proposal (RFP) documents that will be sent out to potential suppliers.
How do you find suppliers to include in the RFI? Determine who your company's existing suppliers are, reach out to industry associates to see who they are using, use industry associations and meetings to network, and participate in trade shows.
The types of suppliers you need to secure will vary based on your meeting needs and whether you decide to go to a “single source” or “multiple sources” strategy. A single source involves bringing in an outside meeting management company to mange all of your suppliers so you don't have to. In a multiple source strategy you would manage the various suppliers, such as meeting planning companies, destination management companies, audiovisual providers, etc.
Hotel companies should be considered as part of your preferred supplier program as well. You can work directly with global or national chains, or with regional offices or even local hotels. Hotel chains are an important part of this strategy because you will be in a better position to leverage your spend and increase your buying power when you shift market share to a limited number of suppliers. It allows you to conduct business more easily as well. You can put one regionalfor terms and conditions in place for the chain hotels. Of course you still need to negotiate the price individually with the specific hotels. With local hotels, you can implement pre-negotiated meeting packages that all company employees can book with confidence, knowing that the pricing is fair and contractual aspects have been approved by your legal department.
Include Suppliers in Your Team
Once you have your preferred suppliers, treat them as your partners — a respected extension of your team. Conduct training to ensure they know the processes and procedures, and clearly define the reporting requirements and service-level agreements.
Internally, communicate the preferred supplier program throughout your organization. Make the list of partners easy for employees to access. Be sure there is open communication, allowing suppliers and staff to share concerns and process improvement opportunities. Set them up for success, as this will be a positive reflection on your ability to strategically manage your organization's meetings program.
Betsy Bondurant, CMP, CMM, is president of Bondurant Consulting, Coronado, Calif. Contact her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Industry Lingo: RFI Vs. RFP
A Request for Information is a process to review all the potential companies you could consider as suppliers. In contrast, the Request for Proposal is a more detailed document that includes pricing modules.