When you receive a request for proposal (RFP) that aligns with the services or products that your company provides, your first instinct is probably to get to work submitting a proposal that will land you the job.
Although it is tempting to try and secure as much work as possible, especially when the RFP gives the impression that the contact will be lucrative, this instinct is not always correct. As a sales professional, it's in your best interest to be selective and strategic about the clients that you pursue.
Need some convincing? Here's why it's not a good idea to respond to every RFP.
Your Time and Effort are Valuable
If you're responding to RFPs strategically, you should be investing at least a few hours of research and preparation into each one. You tailor your sales presentations to each client, catering to their unique needs and providing your customized solutions: RFPs should be no different.
Rather than spending your time responding to every RFP you receive with a mostly pre-written, "one-size-fits-all" proposal, use your resources to submit proposals that are thorough, detailed, and as unique as each potential client.
Writing an effective proposal takes time and effort. It's likely that multiple people - maybe even whole teams of people - in your business will be involved in conducting research and creating charts, infographics, white papers, and other necessary supporting documents.
Being selective about which proposals you respond to will make it less likely that your team will become overburdened and neglect other customers as a result - and more likely that the proposals you submit will be your absolute best work.
Not All RFPs Are Genuine
There are several reasons why a company may issue an RFP without intending to seriously consider all proposals:
- It is not uncommon for companies to have specific protocol that needs to be followed when procuring a new product or service. Often, this protocol involves issuing RFPs as a means to compare vendor costs and solutions. In this situation, the buyer may already know which vendor they intend to choose, and the RFP is simply a formality of the protocol that they need to follow before any sales can occur.
- Some companies may issue an RFP as a way to get some free consulting; they may take a combination of ideas and concepts from several proposals and implement them internally.
- Issuing an RFP may be a way to gain leverage over a vendor that the company already works with by providing them with documentation of lower prices for similar products or services.
When You Decide to Submit a Proposal
When an RFP comes across your desk that's just too good to ignore, here's what you should do:
- Be selective: Make sure that the project is a good fit for the products and services you offer.
- Analyze the income potential: Factor in the time and efforts of submitting the proposal when you're considering applying for the work.
- Get additional opinions: Check in with your colleagues who would support you in your endeavor to prepare and submit the RFP – do they think it’s a good fit?
- Know what you bring to the table: Don't submit a proposal unless you are truly confident that you can make a positive difference for the buyer.
- Understand their needs: Contacting the prospective buyer or an appropriate representative can help you determine their underlying reasons for the request, whether you are a good fit, and give you a better idea of what they're looking for - giving you an advantage over your competition if you do decide to submit a proposal.
Pro tip: If the issuer of the RFP declines or refuses to answer questions, it’s a good indication that the process is rigged against you.
As a final thought, keep in mind that RFPs shouldn’t be treated differently from other opportunities within your pipeline. Be analytical and strategic in your approach and try to ask probing questions to qualify the lead, or in this case, the RFP. Only then can you be certain that your efforts will pay off in the long run.