I recently read “RIP, RFP — This Is Not Your 1990s Vendor Selection Process” by Elaine Hutton, on the Forrester blog. First of all, she nailed it if you are doing RFP’s the old-fashioned way – meaning months and months to gather, process, score, evaluate and select. But there are new ways RFP’s are used to evaluate prospective vendors. So, if you would like to win more proposals than you lose, read on.
Wondering why you didn’t get awarded the business? Does your company have a lower close rate than it used to? If you think you are losing RFP competitions due to increased competition or lower bids – the real reasons may surprise you.
5 years ago, RFP’s yielded predictable decisions. But times have changed. There is an emphasis placed on collaboration, modesty and diverse voices like never before.
Organizations looking for external assistance rarely can define the precise solution they need. If they are innovative, they are on a leading-edge trajectory. They are looking for a partner they can trust to help them find the customized answer together. So do not walk into a board room with a power point and “the solution.”
If your presentation is:
- a few slides on your company’s history/founder (don’t care)
- your past installation base (don’t care because we already saw that on your website)
- “the solution” and how to proceed with a successful installation
What you are really saying is, we don’t listen to you beyond grasping your jargon so we can pepper your terminology into our canned sales pitch. You must come into “pitches” with thoughtful questions and present your ideas as possible alternatives to explore together to gain credibility as a potential collaborator.
You are in the room because the client has a problem they cannot solve on their own. To present your solution as obvious and the answer as easy, you make your client sound incompetent. Or you come across as not listening to the complexity of their environment or obstacles. Every installation or partnership is complicated. Oversimplifying the complexity does not make your team sound confident. You sound boastful and self-satisfied. The winning approach is to say that you have helped solve complicated problems before. You know how to customize solutions to each client and their situation. You will enter into the engagement expecting to have to make adaptations to ensure the client’s needs are met.
1: Do not walk into the room as a leadership team if there are no women. Just don’t. Those women must contribute high quality content. They are not there to build relationships with the prospective client by chatting about restaurants and local events.
2: Check your diversity against every measure – including age and race. Bring a high-potential millennial to a critical presentation. Bring in people with accents (even southern ones.) Showcase the breadth of people that contribute to your company’s success – whether they have a nose ring, dreadlocks, pink hair, or grey hair.
3: People are not jewelry. Do not bring in a sparkling team and then keep them silent. Don’t only allow the senior leaders do all the talking. Great team leaders actively handoff issues and questions to the people on the team that are subject matter experts. In fact, leaders should show an ability to listen and then quickly identify the high caliber talent on their team who can provide answers. If you bring a diverse team – every voice should be heard.
Surprising? Those RFP’s are not just about cost/benefit, quality and fit. They tell your prospect so much more.