How do most sales leaders manage the procurement process in their organization? If you work in sales and are invited to participate in an RFP, it’s likely that you experience two conflicting feelings. The first one, if turned into words, would feel something like this: “Yes! We’ll have an opportunity to win new business.” However, while you’re ruminating on the possibility of closing another deal, another thought bubbles to the surface. If articulated, it would come out something like this: “No! It’s a huge time suck for an unclear opportunity that we’ll never win.”
While the RFP represents the best practice for sourcing and procurement departments, many sales organizations are ill-equipped to handle them. Indeed, for many organizations, an RFP response remains an ad hoc process. Regrettably, this results in sales leaders having to spend time cajoling internal subject matter experts, sifting through information hidden in silos, and collating all of the data that is being compiled. As a sales leader, you wake up every day eager to cultivate relationships with prospects and customers. Understandably, being tasked with running an RFP in the aforementioned manner can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.
Sales leaders generally have their performance measured by the numbers. How many deals are they closing? What is the average deal size? When dealing with an outbound sales effort or even the happy consequences of a successful demand-gen program, you — the sales leader — are able to exert a lot more influence over the sales process. While these are good circumstances to boost your close rate, buyers are increasingly keen to take back control of the purchase process. One of the ways that they’re doing this is with the RFP.
Make no mistake — participating in an RFP is participating in a sales process. The venue might be different and the amount of influence that you can exert might be reduced, but the ultimate goal is to close business. You are the sales leader and it’s incumbent upon you to make sure that your team has the right tools and resources to be effective (as well as efficient) with their time. Losing RFPs simply because you don’t have a process for crafting top-flight responses doesn’t merely impact your numbers, it threatens to drag down the morale of the sales professionals who work for you.
To avoid this, check out these five tips to help win more RFPs:
1) Document, document, document. By storing all internal information that you gather in a single location and making it accessible, you can significantly reduce your team’s time investment while boosting the quality of your organization’s proposals. Managing your process through email and Excel makes it easy for something to slip through the cracks. Let’s be honest, it is extremely difficult to read through complicated email threads from subject matter experts when you are trying to meet a tight deadline and get your response out the door. Managing revisions of outdated documents in multiple locations can be relegated to a distant memory with RFP software.
2) Research the organization. No one can read minds so it is critical to clearly understand your prospective purchaser’s needs. Every buyer is unique, which is why it is important for you to understand what issues they are facing and what they would want to achieve. See if you can have a conversation with the buyer before you dive into your RFP response. Asking the right questions and understanding your buyer’s needs will help you stand out in the process. Consider asking these questions:
- Have you worked with a competitor in the past? What did you like and what missed the mark?
- What are your major pain points?
- Who is currently involved in the selection process?
Uncovering the answers to these questions will help get you one step closer to winning the deal and discovering if the buyer’s requirements align well with your solution.
3) Time stamp your information and update it on a schedule. Passing along outdated information can undermine your efforts. Your responses might be revised multiple times from various team members, so time stamping your updates will ensure that you are conveying the most up-to-date information. Maintaining an audit trail also helps avoid “finger pointing” if a problem arises.
4) Develop an efficient process. If you are able to respond to RFPs quickly, you can both reduce the stakes for any individual opportunity and increase the number of opportunities available to you. You are likely not the only company in the RFP process so you need to ensure you are not wasting anyone’s time. Once you’ve created a response workflow, make sure that your team uses it. (Let's hope that, in the future, there is an AI application that can automate RFP responses!)
5) Be gracious! In developing an RFP response, you will often need to tap the knowledge of colleagues who do not work in sales roles. Their time is as valuable as yours so make sure to express your appreciation. Immediately assign tasks and deadlines to subject matter experts to afford them ample time for revisions prior to the deadline. If you are still managing your process using a spreadsheet, you should clearly indicate the specific questions assigned to them to avoid overwhelming them with the entire RFP process.
Absent a good process for responding to RFPs, you run the risk of undermining both of the numbers that go into an ROI calculation. Return, in this case, is measured by the number of deals that are closed as well as the size of those deals. Obviously, if the information you need to craft a response is spread across different computers, folders, and the brains of various colleagues, it’s going to be a challenge to access everything you need prior to your deadline. Ultimately, this negatively impacts the quality of the response.
Have you considered RFP response software to help increase your win rate? Request a free account on Vendorful to see how RFP management software can improve your responses to win more business!