Playing the Long Game with an RFP

A request for proposal is an indication that your prospective client is already deep into their buying process.

They’ve identified their need. They’ve spent time determining what they believe will help them produce better results. They’ve weighed the trade-offs. Now they are evaluating their options. If you received the request for proposal, you are being invited into your prospect’s buying process very late in the game.

Little Room for Value Creation

It is difficult to create value, but not impossible, this late in the buying process, especially when that process is “arm’s-length.”

  • You are deprived of the opportunity to help them understand their needs and to potentially frame it in a more complete and more empowering way.
  • Because you’ve been invited in so late, your insight as to the trade-offs your prospective client may need to make and the likelihood of their being able to execute their choice isn’t likely to be given enough attention; the fact that they have put together a request for proposal means they know what they want (it is not impossible to change their minds, just difficult).
  • The request for proposal process eliminates your ability to develop deep relationships, expand needs and collaborate on solutions, or build consensus.

Statistics suggest you have less than a one in five chance of winning a blind RFP. Yet still there is an opportunity here, if you are willing to play the long game.

The Opportunity Hidden in the RFP

A lot of presidential candidates’ first campaign for that office is a training run. They learn how the game is played, and they have a chance to build relationships and teams for their future run – their real attempt to win. That same play can work for you.

  1. You want to challenge the content of the request for proposal, demonstrating that you have the business acumen and situational knowledge to create value outside of the questions on paper. Your questions can do that. There are other ways, too.
  2. Write a great executive summary and an exceptional response with the goal of making it to the short list of companies who get a chance to present. The reason you want to present is so that you get a chance to meet with all of the decision-makers and influencers attending your presentation. You can shake their hands, look them in the eyes, and collect their business cards.

Maybe you will present well enough to make the final round, and maybe you won’t. The point is, once you’ve presented and met the players, you now have enough of a relationship to begin nurturing them and developing the future opportunity. You now know the players. If you made a good impression, they know you.

Play the Long Game

You’ve called on a lot of accounts that you did not win the first time you competed for their business when there wasn’t an RFP.

If you are going to go through the trouble of completing an RFP, then you are obligated to continue to pursue that prospective client throughout the two or three years they have a contract with your competitor. If the prospect is worth competing for when there is an RFP, they are worth competing for when there isn’t one.

Filed under: Sales 3.0

Share this page with your network