Are you seeing more projects go to RFP? If not, you probably will. The trend in business is that more companies are going to RFP, and this won’t be changing anytime soon. Good news - right? Probably not your first response, but read on to see why you may want to rethink that response…and rework your RFP strategy.
While the RFP Checklist isn’t exhaustive, it provides a good starting point for developing a winning sales strategy. You can easily customize the Checklist for your own use as well.
The bottom line, know your success criteria and what the requirements are for participation.
What is an RFP – Really?
Take note – an RFP is not a mechanism for vendor selection. So, what is it?
What An RFP really Is:
- A mechanism for vendor de-selection
- A potential opportunity for differentiation
- A vehicle to disrupt or derail the regular process
- An avenue to get to the economic buyer and the technical buyer
- An introduction to a new prospect
What An RFP is Not:
- A mechanism for vendor selection
- An opportunity to develop needs – these are generally developed in the absence of vendors
- A vehicle for actual purchase - typically 50% do not result in award
While it’s unfortunate that RFPs are increasing in use, the good news is many firms haven’t developed a strategy to gain selection. Most offer ‘generic’ responses and fail to respond to crucial sections of the RFP. This is where a savvy sales rep can differentiate from the “also rans.”
Your New RFP Strategy
Now that you know what the RFP is really trying to achieve, it’s time to determine whether or not to submit.
Never again will you approach an RFP thinking you’ll simply follow the RFP’s guidelines like the rest of the pack. Going forward, you’ll pursue two options:
1) Opt out early
If you’re unable to differentiate, then your time spent on the RFP will be a waste.
Real quick point on opting out: In some cases, opting-out can actually be a more effective differentiator than participating in the RFP. For example, prospects may show their hand and confess they were looking forward to your proposal. If this is the case, you’ve just learned a valuable piece of information that could very well result in a win.
Now, let’s discuss that winning RFP strategy.
Differentiate or Go Home
If you’ve made it this far in the process and are still considering submitting a response to the RFP, you need to figure out exactly how you will differentiate yourself.
There are four main ways that you can differentiate yourself from the competition:
1) Be thorough – Many RFP responses are left to the last minute and ignore crucial questions or requests in the RFP. Simply by being thorough, creating a constant “theme” (aka: selling your strengths), and addressing all requests you will likely stand out. And always include a price.
2) Cost reduction – Think long and hard about how you can lower costs, because as the saying goes, “Money talks.” If you are able to provide economic incentive to the prospect, this will always gain the attention of the Economic Buyer. You’ll have an “in” with the prospect that other vendors won’t.
3) Technical questions – Do your research. Prospect’s will be impressed by a vendor that asks important, technical questions. By doing this, you not only gain more insight into the project, but you are also able to obtain contact with the Technical Buyer. Another “in.”
4) Be a thought leader – Don’t simply spit back generic industry best practices and slap a price on it. Think outside the box. If you can challenge the prospect’s thinking with further insight that will improve their performance, you will gain their attention 100% of the time.
Remember, RFPs aren’t going away. In fact, they’re growing in popularity. What will your response be to the next RFP you receive? You can opt-out, opt-in, or optimize through differentiation. .
If you have more questions about your RFP strategy, or want to further develop a strategy that will result in a higher win percentage, contact SBI directly and make the decision to become world class.