Finding a travel management company (TMC) that best suits your organisation can often feel like an impossible task – there are most likely numerous stakeholders who all have an opinion or agenda that needs to be taken into account, and considering the potential cost and time implications of a wrong decision, can cause more than a few head-meets-desk moments.

The best way to begin to streamline the lengthy procurement process is to find out everything you need to know about a prospective TMC during the tender/bid process. So, how do you go about creating the best tender, in order to receive the best bid?

Here’s a quick 7-step guide:

1. Have a strategy but keep your mind open – This is the key to making sure you get what you want and need from your new TMC. Make your requirements clear and explicitly define your scoring criteria – this helps to give focus to the prospective TMCs and tailor their responses to meet your requirements. Be prescriptive but leave some room for the TMCs to show you some innovation and perhaps suggest some new ways of working that you’d maybe not thought of.

2. Benchmarking doesn’t really work – Benchmarking only gives you a price at a particular given time, which probably won’t be guaranteed when you actually come to book, therefore it’s really not the most important thing to be taken into consideration when choosing a TMC – it’s more worthwhile to focus on a TMC’s range of content or booking tools, the team that will support you, savings made for clients and their ability to negotiate rates for you. If you do decide to give benchmarking a go then provide as much detail as possible (dates/times etc.) to make it fair and measurable.

3. Ask for a demo – Don’t be shy of asking for a demo of any type of live booking tool that a prospective TMC offers. This gives you the chance to see how it works first hand and whether it really is as user-friendly as they make it out to be – most TMCs will have a dummy login you can use.

4. Meet with the TMCs beforehand – Take the time to engage and meet with some companies, build a relationship and get a real feel for them and their services. This will also give the TMC a better idea of what you’re looking for, meaning that they will be able to tailor their bid responses to your requirements. The most fruitful and long lasting relationships are built on mutual trust, collaboration and dialogue and it’s difficult to get a feel for this without having met those people with whom you’ll be entering into a relationship.

5. Give as much information as you can – Information such as travel data, current issues and vision for the future really helps the TMC to get to grips with your current booking situation and any issues they could look to address. The quality of what you receive in the bid responses will be in direct proportion to the amount of information that you provide at the outset.

6. Pricing – Of course, you can state your preferred method of costing here, but it is always good to be open minded, as this can vary quite a lot. Aim to compare apples with apples – i.e. don’t ask TMCs to provide you with an annual cost for the travel booked last year if quite a lot of it was done offline. For TMCs who have a track record of rapidly increasing online adoption, and therefore who would save you more money in the long run, asking them how much it would have cost last year will not be relevant, as the company who gives the lowest price for last year may not be the best option going forwards. Above all, just make sure you’re getting total transparency from each TMC.

7. Evaluation – The aim of the evaluation exercise is to select the bid or tender which will give the best value for money at best overall cost; this will most likely result from balancing cost, quality, delivery, performance and risk. A good tip is to assess the product/service on offer and the culture fit before you look at the pricing, as this can always be negotiated. You don’t want to end up with the cheapest TMC who, a few months down the line, you realise isn’t giving you what you want or even worse, you can’t stand to work with!

So, that’s a whistle-stop tour of the seven key steps to receiving the best bid from your prospective TMC. However, the course of true TMC love never did run smoothly and we appreciate that your organisation has its own nuances and specifications that require a more detailed, in-depth guide to the ins and outs of the procurement process, which is why you can find further information in our comprehensive, complimentary guide.

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