Many salespeople think that once a request for proposal (RFP) is out, it may be too late to win by competitive advantage. However, getting ahead of the competition when bidding for an RFP doesn’t have to be complicated – but it does require asking the right questions. Salespeople that put the time and effort into asking the right questions will consistently achieve an information advantage, so without further ado, these are the secrets to getting ahead when responding to RFPs.
- How to Stand Apart from the Competition
- The Ultimate Guide To Selling To The C-Suite
- Solution Selling – Essential Steps of the Solution Selling Process
What is an RFP?
An RFP, more commonly known as a request for proposal, is a business document that announces a project and receives bids from several contractors to complete it. Responses to the RFP are evaluated against the specific needs and criteria of the company so that they can choose the best solution.
Questions you can ask to get ahead when responding to RFPs
When contacting the potential client to thank them for the opportunity, it’s a crucial chance for you to get ahead by asking the right questions about how the business constructed the RFP. By asking these questions, you get a unique insight into the research and ideas of the business – which can give you that edge you need to win.
A great way to differentiate your RFP proposal above the rest is to ask questions about how it was created – this provides you with an opportunity to complement the business. Alongside gaining critical information such as: whether it is one person or a project team from different disciplines across the organization, whether the company uses social media to connect with customers, what research has been done and how long the sales process usually is. To do this, you can say:
“Thank you for sending the RFP to me and thank you for including our company. I’ve carefully reviewed your RFP and it’s very concise and comprehensive. Can I ask how you (and your team) put it together?”
Once you understand this, you can move on to asking questions about the post RFP process. This method gives you a chance to consider their responses to questions such as:
- Who will review the RFPs?
- How many solution providers are they considering?
- Do they have a grading tool for evaluating the RFP? (If so, what does it entail? E.g. match to needs, value-add, implementation, metrics, price, and responsiveness.)
- What will happen to competitive responses once the proposals are submitted?
- What’s most important to the company?
What are the main decision making criteria to pick a provider?
5 ways to increase your RFP win rate
Alongside asking the right questions – you must prepare adequately for any RFP. Considering that most RFPs are won or lost before they even enter the submission stage – it’s why you need to employ a few best practices before you submit anything. Check them out below:
1. Focus on networking
Have you heard the phrase ‘Your network is your net worth,’? If you have, are you doing anything to leverage your network when it comes to responding to RFPs? When was the last time you went to a networking event to expand your network or built stronger relationships with your existing connections?
Think about it – the more connections you have, the more opportunities you have to increase your revenue. Depending on how influential your relationships are for your industry, you are more likely to succeed with your RFP goals.
2. Develop relationships with decision-makers
A salesperson can compete based on product, price and service but still lose the sale because of the relationship between the customer and a competitor’s salesperson. People naturally prefer to buy from people they know, like and trust, which can be a hurdle when dealing with decision-making c-level executives. Therefore your likeability and ability to form strong relationships quickly are essential. The best way to prove your authority and credibility is to begin by building rapport. To achieve this, you should prove that the value you are providing is more than just a solution. In other words, you don’t want to be a companion; you want to show them the way.
3. Know your competitors
As you already know, RFPs are highly competitive. So we recommend that you learn as much about your competitors and their approach to winning RFPs – because if you can understand their strategy, you can differentiate that with why your company is a better choice.
4. Know your differentiators
A great way to stand apart from your competition is to discover your point of differentiation. Ask your customers why they picked you and what they see as your strengths. This method will help you focus on communicating what’s truly important to your prospects.
So, consider when customers think of your business, what exactly are they thinking? If they’re not feeling anything, you are in big trouble. If they’re thinking something other than what you want them to be thinking, you’ve got some work to do. When working out how to stand apart from the competition -it all comes down to positioning.
Positioning is all the decisions, activities, and communication strategies directed toward creating and maintaining your intended product concept in the customer’s mind.
5. Only respond to strong opportunities
While it’s tempting to respond to every RFP that matches your solutions, it can be counterproductive and lead you astray from reaching the real beneficial opportunities. A strong RFP opportunity is a company you’re sure hasn’t worked with any of your competitors and has a budget to afford your solution. What’s more, critically, you’ve directly spoken to the decision-maker and not just the procurement department. By narrowing down the list of RFPs you respond to this criteria, you can spend more time creating a robust and strategic proposal that is far more likely to win – or at the very least – move you onto the presentation round.
6. Build around the client
Remember, you’re not selling a package, promotion, product, service, feature, or benefit. You’re selling a solution to their particular problem. So by extending the conversation, you can have valuable discussions about their pains, needs and wants, which can help uncover a solution they hadn’t considered. To help with this cognitive reframing, you can ask the following questions:
- “How do you see this working out?”
- “How do you think you need to proceed?”
- “How will you avoid common challenges like X, or Y, or Z?”
These “how” questions get them to consider their reality – so you will probably find that buyers always have strong opinions but no firm plans.
7. Always follow up
Once you’ve submitted the proposal, you can’t just sit back and expect a call to make you an offer after an initial meeting. You must be persistent with following up, and it’s not complicated either. You can pick up the phone, send a quick email or touch in with a LinkedIn Voice Message to say, “Are you happy with the current proposal details?”, “Are there any additional amendments?” or “When can we get started?”
Position your business as the ideal solution when responding to RFPs
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