I had the pleasure of teaching an RFP training at last week’s WBENC conference. To prepare, I dug deep into what I knew as a former purchaser of services at Pepsi-Cola, Pizza Hut, Frito-Lay for 18 years, and I looked up some recent research about how to win at these mysterious events. Here are some secrets to success:
Don’t Apply to Everything
When companies write every RFP they can get their hands on, they suffer the consequences. Instead, use a go/no go analysis check-list to make sure that the RFP is a good fit. Ask questions like: do you have any unique solution to offer, would this be profitable for your company, is this the right time for this job? Blindly applying to everything ensures losing bids.
Answer Every Question
Because I knew of my impending training, I used the meetings with corporate buyers to ask them their number one pet peeve when reviewing RFP’s. Guess what they unanimously agreed to: not filling out all the questions! Not only do you automatically disqualify yourself but you’re missing a massive opportunity to explain why you’re not answering or why that question doesn’t apply to you.
According to 2022 RFP research, the average bid is written in 24hrs. However, the average winning bids took 2 hours longer. Therefore, the longer time you take answering questions and writing a complete RFP, the higher your chance of winning.
Access To Key Players
One case study mentioned in the research showed that a company spent $1.1MM on writing bids to get $175K worth of sales. A dismal ROI. When they asked for access to key decision makers involved in the purchase, their success rate went from 1.6% to 38%!! If that’s not a case for never blindly responding to bids again without talking to key players, I don’t know what is! In fact, if you ask for access and you’re denied, most experts agree that you should walk away from the bid.
Get In Early
A school year book printer with very poor RFP win rates started contacting school districts 6 months AFTER they awarded the contract to a competitor for an informational meeting. What happened? Their win rates increased drastically. The printers held 2 kind of meetings: For school districts that were happy with the incumbent, the printers did nothing. But for those who had issues with their ongoing vendor, the printers held a longer meeting to find out more about the issues and how they could change things in the next bid, almost 1.5yrs later! The advice is to get in as early as you can to build relationships with your target before you even think about writing your next RFP.
Weave A Story
When you treat every question including the executive summary as a story about the prospect’s pain and how you are going to help solve that problem like you did with others in the same industry, that’s when your RFP stands out. From the first sentence to the charts and visuals, use them to tell stories of pain, solution and success. Don’t treat an RFP as an informational sheet. It’s always about the story of how you’re going to help.
This is a biggie. Research found that when the ratio of the use of the words “we” vs. “you” in the RFP was 20% to 80%, there was a higher likelihood of winning the bid. That’s because everything you write in the RFP should be framed as being about the prospect. Not about your services or products. In business and in life, it’s never about you!
So you now have great secrets to ace your RFP game. RFPs can be game changers for your business…if done right!