One thing is certain in this post lockdown world: it is highly unlikely that any business will decline the opportunity to respond to an RFP. In fact, with revenues under pressure for most organisations, every RFP will likely be viewed as a genuine ‘opportunity’. This means that even for those businesses with a robust go/no go process in place, this has just been thrown out of the window.
The scramble to grab any work you can means bid teams will be tasked with getting straight into completing and submitting multiple bids. However, even if you don’t undertake analysis of whether you should respond to an RFP or not, you will most likely still know deep down what your chances of success are.
Data tells us that in many cases your chances of winning will be slim. With that in mind, how can you improve your chances of success?
Below are five simple and proven steps you can take to improve your chances of bid success.
1. Yes, the bid is a go, but still perform your go/no go analysis
This step is best practice for a reason. Qualification is without doubt the most important step in any sales process. Understanding your chances of success, the needs of the client, where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and your competition is vital information. If you don’t have a bid or no bid assessment tool, you can find one here.
2. Changes in short-term procurement strategy could be an opportunity
In the ‘new normal’ many businesses will be looking to save money, and fast. This means in the ‘new normal’ the cost of changing suppliers has, to a degree, been discarded.
This does mean that you’ll have to organise yourselves quickly and respond in a way that meets this requirement. This is not about the cheapest price but ensuring you clearly demonstrate value for money against the needs, objectives and scope articulated in the RFP.
To do this, you shouldn’t simply reduce or even slash your price. This isn’t good business practice. However, you need to read and examine the scope of the RFP carefully. Then make sure you only price what is in scope. If you have additional elements you think will lead to a better service and outcome, then price these as optional extras.
3. Innovation wins out
Is there an innovation which will mean that you can deliver the service for less money? Can you systemise some of the process or use technology to delivery greater efficiencies and effectiveness?
Most services are based on charging on a time and cost basis. So, if you can reduce the time and effort you need to put in to deliver the service required by the RFP issuer, you could just win the day.
4. Make a connection – even a virtual one
Unless the RFP specifically states that you can’t speak to the issuing organisation, don’t assume that it does. Read the RFP carefully. If it isn’t prohibited, make contact with them as soon as you can and arrange a phone call or virtual meeting.
There should be two clear purposes for this contact. Firstly, clarify from them why they have issued the RFP and what their ideal outcome looks like, in terms of service provision. Secondly, build some rapport with them. If you’re blind bidding to an RFP having never met or worked with this organisation or any of their people before, this is absolutely vital. Even if they are more open to change than ever, they will want to be reassured that you are people that they will be comfortable working with. You can only build this rapport in a two session – a call, face to face meeting, or virtual meeting. It is impossible to do build trust via a written response only.
5. Consider changing the game
If you can provide a great option for the RFP issuer but it is completely different to the scope requested, then you have the option of sending in a non-conforming bid or an alternative tender. If your newly proposed option gives them an innovative and more efficient solution, now more than ever, they are highly likely to consider it.
Even if you aren’t successful, it may well put in the RFP issuer’s mind that you are an innovative and client-centric organisation. Which can only be a positive going forward, particularly for any future opportunities you may receive.
Have the courage to bring it all together
To win out in the new normal, you’ll need to have efficient bid response processes in place. Quick turnarounds will put your bid teams under greater stress than usual as you start to respond to a potentially higher than ever number of RFPs.
Albert Einstein is credited with having said that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. This notion will absolutely apply to your bid and proposal responses in the coming months. Continually adopting the same approaches to winning bids and rehashing the same bid responses, hoping for a different outcome, will not lead to any success. Now is the time to embrace the challenge and adopt some new tactics. Doing this might just help you turn an almost certain loss into an unexpected win!
About our guest author
Ben is Director and Founder of The BD Ladder, a business development consultancy focused on growing the revenue of B2B and Professional Services firms. Based in Auckland, The BD Ladder and Julian Midwinter & Associates enjoy a close working relationship across the Tasman.
Tender readability remains a problem for some in the 21st century. I still see submission documents that cling to a handful of really old hat tender presentation and formatting techniques. I suspect this is because some of these ‘rules’ are viewed as being more appropriate to a ‘formal’ style of document such as a tender. […]