How do you know if you are responding to RFPs correctly?


Some key questions are:


  • Does your sales process treat RFP sales campaigns differently than ‘regular’ ones?
  • Do you have a separate strategy for responding to RFPs that helps you differentiate, but NOT based on feature/functionality?
  • Do you track success and failure of RFP sales campaigns separately from non-RFP campaigns?


If the answer to these is ‘no’, read on.


It’s difficult to grow revenue faster than your industry’s growth rate and faster than your competitors. Leverage the How to Make Your Number in 2018 Workbook to access a revenue growth methodology to hit your number quarter after quarter, and year after year.


What an RFP Really Is


First, let’s all agree on what an RFP really is. Although the Procurement department of most corporations exists to support a formal RFP approach, typically these tenders are a “document by committee” that often end up being vague, self-contradictory, and incomplete. It is a means to “lower” the bar so that vendors can be homogenized because such comparison requires a least common denominator. As such, RFP efforts become political footballs and descend into nothing more than a mechanism to narrow the list.


Your Competitive Opening


Because of the banality inherent in the RFP process, you have an opportunity to use the entire process to your advantage. How? Because most RFP response skills are uniformly mediocre among the average sales rep. Consequently, most respondents to an RFP:

  • Blow-off major elements of a professional RFP response
  • Do not understand RFP “dynamics”
  • Respond in a vanilla manner (same style, same bland verbiage, same marketing approach)
  • Are late in preparing a response


Thus, RFP positioning and responses offer you a chance to differentiate.


Adopt an RFP Strategy


Think George Constanza. Remember the episode when he did the opposite of everything his instincts was telling him to do and the results were off the charts? That is the approach you should use in developing your RFP strategy. Conventional wisdom is dead wrong.


First, you should revise your sales process so that when an RFP is introduced, the campaign strategy changes. The RFP enables you to communicate consistent “win” themes and get above those who may have been blocking your message. As you conduct your RFP response strategy, take note of how the customer reacts to each of your RFP moves; this is VERY instructive.  To be successful, your RFP response strategy should be counter-intuitive; will distinguish you from the competition.


There are specific steps you should take at each phase of a formal RFP process, but the remainder of this blog post will discuss just the first – the Question and Answer (Q&A) Phase.


The Q&A Phase: What not to do


When an RFP arrives via e-mail the first response can range from lethargy to panic. Either way, vendors consistently put little effort into the Q&A phase. What little effort they do expend usually consists of a Solutions Consultant or pre-sales Engineer submitting a small number of detailed and unimportant technical questions in a less than a professional document. Meanwhile the sales rep is more worried about orchestrating the response to the RFP itself.


Big mistake.


Making the Q&A Phase your Silver Bullet


Follow these steps in responding to your next RFP Q&A phase and you will set your campaign on the path to success.


  1. Read the RFP introduction and background sections with care..Compare them to the technical requirements sections and look for disconnects.
  2. Think of all the business, financial, and operation considerations that are not being adequately addressed from their perspective, not yours as a vendor
  3. Then, craft a set of account-specific questions that focus on the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what/how’, and reflect the following criteria:
    • Detailed: ask all the technical ‘hows’…but no meaningless technical questions
    • Gap Exposing: identify requirements that should have included because of of their stated business objectives but are missing (because this is a document by committee)
    • Comprehensive: addresses all aspects of the RFP with your insightful questions
    • Insightful: asking probing questions not easily answered by a technician – for the questions to be routed to the business side
    • Relevant: tie requested capabilities to business value


By the quality of these question, it should be obvious to the company that, compared to competitors, you are:


  • More competent to address THEIR industry-specific issues
  • More technically adept at assessing THEIR pricing concerns
  • More experienced at solving THEIR business challenges
  • More focused on THEM making more money


Read this recent article to access a checklist to evaluate whether you should enter an RFP.


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 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.


Sales Revenue Growth



Mike Drapeau

Makes data and analysis come alive so clients can understand the “what” and “why” and design solutions that fit the environment.
Mike has led every function at SBI – Delivery, Sales, Talent, and Technology. Now he is a leader for Account Management, Private Equity Partnership, and long-term business development at SBI.


He has personally led over 100 projects for SBI over his decade+ time since its founding in 2006.


This starts by earning trust – of clients, of PE firms, of prospects. Mike obtains this by leveraging deep domain expertise, with more than 25 years in sales, competitive intelligence, sales management, marketing enablement, product management, pre-sales and sales operations. Mike relishes the idea of living in the field. So he does.


As a founding partner, Mike built out SBI’s library of emerging best practices for sales and marketing, which leads to evidence-based solutions, custom-fit to each client. Mike built himself many of the solutions now part of the Revenue Growth Methodology. And whatever he touches gets adopted. This is part of his commitment to making it happen in the field.
Read full bio >