Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RFPs: If You Can't Beat 'em, Win 'em

Faithful readers of this blog will know I've been railing against the RFP process for quite some time.

I recently came across a great resource published by Hunt Big Sales. It's an e-book titled, "Landing Big Sales with an RFP."

Included are some of the following gems...

"72% of Fortune 1000 companies have already selected the vendor when they send out the RFP."

"Big companies listen for a special language when they buy. They buy Time, Money, and Risk."

"In answering this RFP, your job is not to answer the RFP. It is to sell the core benefits of your company, take away the big company's fears, and appeal to time, money, or risk."

"Most larger companies have a stated process by which they approve new service providers or product vendors. The process is designed to accomplish the following things:

1. Avoid making a bad decision
2. Negotiate below-market-rate contracts
3. Ensure compliance with the company's overall rules and regulations
4. Protect existing suppliers

They do this by controlling:

1. What you can say
2. Who you can say it to
3. What information you can have
4. Who you can get it from

Big companies are able to get what they want without giving you much of what you want. In the end, the incumbent holds most of the cards."

5 reasons why companies use RFPs:

1. Accountability (SOX compliance)
2. Market Price Strategy (What are the going rates?)
3. Silver Bullet (Maybe there's one out there)
4. Free Consulting ('nuff said)
5. Leveraging (Ammo to beat down current provider)

12 indicators an RFP is not worth pursuing:

1. No succinct objective
2. No budget
3. Repetitive (the ole cut and paste)
4. No access (to decision-makers)
5. Boilerplate
6. Too many invites to the open meeting
7. Variety of invites to the open meeting, non-specific
8. Excessive creative requirements.
9. Cycle of request to delivery (too short turnaround)
10. Tight control of responses (character limits, etc.)
11. Rate-card request
12. No reason to leave

7 tactics for breaking an RFP:

1. Cast a wider net (reach out to others in the org)
2. Ask questions any way you can
3. Learn everything you can about the incumbent
4. Be the smartest person in the room
5. Calibrate to a new understanding and change the language of success
6. Explain your reasons for not participating in the process
7. Seek forgiveness rather than permission

4 reasons most big sale hunters hate to use an RFP response:

1. Low yield ("Of all the RFPs submitted, only 3% result in new business for the responding firm.")
2. Deficit based ("RFPs don't intend to highlight the strengths of your firm.")
3. Price sensitivity ("RFP processes force information into a matrix that often makes price the main differentiating characteristic.")
4. Market intelligence risk (You're giving away your intellectual property.)

9 keys to winning:

1. Play only to win
2. Play by the rules
3. Develop ravens (internal advocates)
4. Use the system
5. Compete on price
6. Promise safety - reduce risk
7. Enlist expertise
8. Write simply and clearly
9. Evoke the reader

Note: I've only listed some of the great insights this document delivers. I highly encourage anyone with a stake in the RFP process to download the e-book and give it a thorough read. No matter what side of the fence you're on, you'll come away with something you can use.


Tom Searcy said...

Thanks for the great review of the ebook! I have a full book on RFPs I'm publishing in the next 60 days that has all of the ebook content plus a lot more- send me your address and I'll make certain that you get a copy-

Tom Searcy
Hunt Big Sales

Aaron Goldman said...

That would be great -- thanks Tom! Pls send c/o Connectual to 314 W. Superior Suite 200. Chicago, IL 60654.

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