The number of buyers issuing RFPs has increased, but most sellers haven’t developed a proven strategy to win.  Most sales forces responding to RFPs offer ‘generic’ responses and fail to respond to crucial sections of the RFP. This is where a savvy sales force can differentiate from the “also rans.” As a deeper resource, download our workbook, How to Make Your Number in 2017. Turn to the Sales Strategy section and start by reviewing “Is My Sales Strategy a Problem?” on page 260 of the PDF workbook.

 

Stop throwing your hat into every ring, be more selective in the RFPs you go after.  Play to win in fewer RFPs.  Download the RFP Checklist to help you quickly determine whether to opt-in or opt out.  

 

While the RFP Checklist isn’t exhaustive, it provides a solid starting point for developing a winning RFP sales strategy. Customize the Checklist to match your unique success criteria to build the requirements for participation.

 

What is an RFP?

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.  Most still go to proposal

     

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

 

2)     Differentiate

 

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.

 

Would you like to spend some time with me reviewing the latest best practices for developing a deal desk?  Come see me and the SBI leadership team in Dallas at The Studio, SBI’s multimillion dollar, one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art, executive briefing center. A visit to The Studio increases the probability of making your number because the sessions are built on the proven strength and stability of SBI, the industry leader in B2B sales and marketing.

 

The Studio

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Auer

Sales and Marketing is a Science, not an Art. It can be perfected and success can be repeated.

John’s has a rich background in a variety of sales, marketing, and senior management positions which provide a unique perspective to solving his clients’ growth challenges.  He has a passion to find the root causes preventing sustainable revenue, market share, and market penetration goals.  His focus is to put in place the operational efficiency, effective infrastructures and emerging best-practices needed to drive revenues faster than his client’s competitors and industries.

 

Prior to SBI John was a Division Vice President at incentive supplier ITA Group. In 2016 his team drove a 137% y/y growth rate that accounted for over 70% of that company’s new business.  This is the “results focus” he used to succeed as a GM at Cintas and as a growth leader at Maritz and BI Worldwide.

 

His mantra; Sales and Marketing is a Science, not an Art.  It can be perfected and success can be repeated.

 

John’s primary expertise is in technology industry.  He has worked with nearly every major technology OEM, Distributors and many of the secondary manufacturers to design go-to-market programs that increase sales and capture mind share.

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