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Guide to Connectivity: How to be RFP and Contract Smart

April 30, 2015

 

Now that you understand Wi-Fi better and have completed your capacity checklist, it is abundantly clear to you the venue does not have enough bandwidth capacity to meet your meeting needs. Whether you are a novice or a highly experienced planner, sending out a RFP and subsequently negotiating a contract for a Wi-Fi network array is essential to keeping your budget intact and your stakeholders happy.

Below are some dos and don’ts, as well as, questions to consider when putting together your RFP. I have also included four creative ways to negotiate a “win-win” contract.   

RFP

The key DON'TS:
 

  1. Don't send out RFPs to the world. 
    Make sure the companies you are considering are solid choices and given the option, you would do business with them. Sending out 25 or 30 RFPs takes a lot of work, not to mention the time it takes to read each response. Choose 2-5 companies you will consider.

 

  1. Don't send it to a company that cannot meet your client's needs. 
    Make certain you know your conference services requirements. Obtain a the listing of equipment the company has to offer in the Wi-Fi arena.

 

The key Dos:
 

  1. Give the company your basic information. Include your name, title, phone, email and web address. Tell them which way you prefer to be contacted and let them know what your normal turnaround time is to return a call or respond to an email.
     
  2. Let them know the date(s), times, location, and meeting size of the event. 
     
  3. Give them ALL your Wi-Fi requirements at the same time. 
    Having completed the checklist from Part 3, you should have all your requirements in front of you. 
     
  4. Give the company a budget range. 
    You don't have to be perfect here, but a high and low range is going to tell the organization whether or not they can do the job for that price. 
     
  5. Let them know about your payment schedule. 
    Do you pay your invoices net 30, 45, 60 days? Don't be surprised, if you are late payer that the company asks you for a hefty deposit up front.
     
  6. Answer all their questions, before they submit their response.
    Most organizations are going to have questions because you may not have thought of everything. Take the calls and answer the questions. You can always email all questions to the other vendors and let them know your responses. 
     
  7. Let them know when you are going to make a decision. 
    Call the winner and the losers. Let them know why they won and lost. If your decision date is slipping by a week, call all the vendors and let them know. 

 

In addition to the dos and don’ts listed above, here are 5 key questions to ask in your next RFP

  1. What are your different labor rates? 
    Labor costs are often the biggest expense with any meeting budget. Knowing when the labor rate goes up or down can aid you in scheduling set up and strike times. Negotiating a 24-hour hold on the room before and after your meeting should help keep labor rates in check. 
     
  2. How long will it take you to set up and strike the Wi-Fi equipment? 
     
  3. How large is your staff and how experienced are they with Wi-Fi? 
    Knowing the size, experience level and certification of the staff members -- along with the number of meetings they have orchestrated -- can help you determine if they have the right mix of people and experience for your meeting. 
     
  4. Will the technician be onsite during the meeting? 
    Having a technician onsite and fully attentive to your meeting will make certain everything goes smoothly. Having a Wi-Fi expert, will ensure the network array will be fully tested several hours before the meeting and that expert will be in the room to monitor the systems at all times, especially during peak usage.  
     
  5. Are you a local company? 
    There are many advantages to having a local AV company manage your needs - including saving on shipping and labor cost, their knowledge of the event space and the city your event will be held, as well as, stimulating the local economy.  

 

NEGOTIATING THE CONTRACT

While it is important to get the price you want, it is also important to remember your provider needs to hit certain margins in order to proceed. While you don't want to leave money on the table, you do need to know what a fair and reasonable quote consists of from the company you wish to do business with.

Below are 4 tips to keep in mind when you are negotiating a contract:  

Know regional rates

Just like anything else you can think of -- from hotel rates to catering --- pricing is going to vary from area to area. It isn't fair to compare a room rate in Midtown Manhattan to one in Des Moines, Iowa. When renting a Wi-Fi network array, this same premise holds true. Talk to colleagues, check online or call one or two vendors to garner an idea of what your total expense might be. 

Find out seasonal/day/time rates

Providers have slow months of the year and days/times of the week. Ask when their slowest time is and use it as part of your negotiation process. However, there is one thing to keep in mind: just because your partner has a slow period, does not mean the hotel or caterer do as well.  

Ask for a new client discount

Many times, companies want a chance to earn your business, so they will offer a first-time customer discount. Don't expect it to be large, especially if you are in peak season, but it doesn't hurt to ask. 

Clarify your budget

By the time you sit down at the table with one or more providers, you should know the low and high end of your budget for renting Wi-Fi equipment and estimated labor costs. Once you share this information, you want to ask one very important question: 

"Based on what you know today, will this budget range work for you?" 

Depending on the supplier's response, this should keep the negotiation going or stop it cold. Even if it stops, you will know that you can move on with another company. Too much energy is often extended by both parties during the negotiation process, only to find out that the equipment rental company can't do what you want for the fee you have budgeted. 

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