To Play or Not to Play – 3 sane steps to deal with RFPs

RFP ImageIt is a dark and stormy evening.

I am tired.

I have been on the road for two weeks.

I just received a Request For Proposal (RFP) from a GIANT company who I have never spoken to. What do I do?

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OK. This may be a “bit” dramatic. Still, you’ve been there, right?

The first thing I want you to do is…breathe…

Now, let’s take a look.

Salespeople have been trained to create physical and emotional reactions from their buyers. We know them as “finding the pain points”, “creating urgency”, “challenging assumptions”, etc.

Buyers at big companies have been trained to do the same thing to you.

When you receive an RFP that you weren’t expecting, often with a tight timeline, from a big company, what do you experience?

Joy? Elation?

Unlikely. The request is designed to inspire fear and to ignite a sense of competition for this client – that you never knew was in the market in the first place.  (You might want to look at why you didn’t know this customer was in the market). BUT!

Do NOT get on your back foot!

I want you to take some very sane steps here  because RFPs are expensive for YOU, for your prospect, and for your competition.

The first step:
I want you  to get in touch with the person requesting the RFP. Ask them why you are being considered and ask for an initial conversation with the business owner (the one who will ultimately use your product).

If they are unwilling to entertain that conversation, I want you to consider declining the request to participate. Many companies require a competitive bid from three (or more) vendors. if they have already selected their vendor, you will put a great deal of your time and energy in NOT getting a sale, just so they can “check off a box.”

The second step:
I want you to ask if you can participate in writing the RFP. If you are a player in your industry – HAVE CONFIDENCE.  You KNOW there are things they need that they will not know to ask for. Be their partner. They will accept or they will decline, but either way, you have established yourself as a thought leader. (And, if they decline, you may be more wary of the questions that come your way).

The third step:
I want you to: Consider accepting or declining – being willing to counter-offer for better terms of delivery. If they are truly interested in your product or service, they will accommodate you.

Companies want what they want when they want it. That does NOT mean that you are at their whim. Find out why they want what they want on their timeframe and see if your company can accommodate. If you are going to have a successful relationship in the future, you must both be able to communicate and deliver on acceptable timeframes.

THE THIRD STEP IS CRITICAL: You are now charged with assessing how important the client relationship is to you. If you ask your company to bend-over-backwards for contracts you continue to lose, they will grow tired of you and you will have no leverage. BOY WHO CRIED “WOLF”.

It is your job to get everyone what they need in the best possible time to make a decision and move to a closed deal. Remember that your company team-mates will be with you much longer than any individual client. Respect everyone’s schedule and restrictions.

Now that you have assessed the situation.

Make the Call.

Participate FULLY. Or decline.

Personally, I ask for ONE risky RFP a year. My company trusts me. I tell them when we “have it in the bag” and “when we are GOING FOR IT”. But, I only get ONE “going for it” per year.

You and your company have value. Don’t chase just anything that comes your way!

Love yourself UP!

The Irreverent Sales Girl

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