- Q: What's the best way to get rid of a sales person?
- A: Ask him to write a proposal.
Before you even think of writing a proposal, you need to know the price point, what the customer values, whether there's money available. And that's the minimum.
Beyond that, you'd better take a good hard look at the RFP. Many RFPs are "front loaded" so that they're actually just a specification that both the decidion maker and your competitor have already agreed upon. When you read the RFP, look for the following:
- Exact recipe language that comes from the competitor's literature (but with the brand names removed).
- Strong statements like "no substitutes" or "no alternatives" scattered throughout the document.
- Short lead times for answer the RFP in order to make it more difficult for other vendors.
But let's suppose that you think you've actually got a chance to win the business. Maybe you've got a history with that customer, or you're entirely certain your offering is massively stronger. Here's what you do:
- STEP #1: Confirm that it's a real RFP. Read the RFP carefully. If a competitor has already locked it down, it should be pretty obvious. If not, it will describe a real and non-partisan problem or need with some half-formed ideas about a solution. If so, then you can go to the next step,
- STEP #2: Confirm that there's a budget. Sometimes people write RFPs simply to test the waters. In many cases, the RFP writer may hope that funds will be made available if the proposals make an iron-clad case. But, sadly, that almost never works, so if there's no budget, it's probably not a real RFP. If there is a budget, though, you can go to the next step.
- STEP #3: Confirm that there is an owner. Sometimes companies will have a budget for something but lack the "will" to move the project forward and actually spend the money and manage the implementation. If there's not an owner -- somebody who really cares -- then your proposal will probably go nowhere. If there is an owner, though, you can move to the next step.
- STEP #4: Confirm that it's a priority. If so, the RFP will identify a real need and have some form of calculating ROI, so that the impact of the project can be assessed. Without these elements, it's highly likelyt that the RFP is simply a "fishing expedition" for some "free consulting"... from you.
- STEP #5: Determine the decision-making process. If you write the proposal and throw it into the "black hole" of the customer's organization, there's a high likelihood it will simply disappear into the void. You'll need to be able to "work the system" in order to make your proposal a real contender.
- STEP #6: Confirm that they're open to alternatives. Even if the RFP seems "independent", chances are a competitor was involved somewhere in the writing process. So don't bother to bid without first contacting the requestor and getting a firm assurance that they're willing to review and consider an alternative approach.
Next time, do the right thing and get into the customer account before they write the RFP -- and then write the RFP. Then you're the one with the inside track.
For more on proposal writing see: