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Mar 11

Ignore That RFP When…

It is often difficult to ignore the RFP that just lands on your desk.  There lies the untold riches and glory that awaits you.

But just like the gold rush, most people come home empty handed with RFPs.  In each RFP, there is exactly one winner (there are RFPs with zero winner – yes, these are just market surveys in disguise), and everyone else go home for the next time.

Furthermore, RFPs generally favors the participants differently.  It’s similar to a playoff seeding, where there usually is a already clear favorite, and they get to play the lower seed first before facing tougher competitions.

Nevertheless, vendors who want to get into the buyer’s door will keep playing the game.  So it’s prudent to know how to play this game well.

To win any RFP, you will have to put a lot of effort into it, in order to convince the buyer that your solution is the best choice.

To do that – you’ll have to invest a lot of resources.  If you are a big company that can throw armies of people on all the RFPs that comes across your desk, great.  You can stop reading now.

If not – you will need to be selective about the RFPs you answer.  Yes that means you need to concentrate on the likely winners, and ignore the rest.

It’s always scary to limit the opportunities.  But focus will give you greater penetration power, which is exactly what you need to win an RFP.

1 out of 10 is much better than 0 out of 100.

So what RFP you should go for?  And what to ignore?

The surest RFPs to go for are the ones that buyers told you “this is yours to lose.”

Okay – no buyer will say that, so this needs to be implied, whether it’s because you have strong relationship with the buyers, or that you are the incumbent vendor.  The point is – you already know you are likely to win before you bid (not that you know you can win). 

Conversely – if you do not know whether you are likely to win, then you are not likely to win.  And broadly speaking – all such RFPs should be ignored.

But what if your job is to get new buyers to bite?  In that case you cannot just ignore all of the RFPs from new buyers.

In that case, you’ll need to know which ones you actually have a chance, and which ones you really don’t:

  • When the existing incumbent is getting kicked out of the door – there is a vacuum, so someone new gets to fill it
  • When you get to directly work with the buying manager and not the procurement – there is a chance that you can build working relationship
  • When you only have a very short amount of time to turn around RFP – either you are late to the party, or the buyer doesn’t have its act together; in either case, the chance is not there
  • When you have to follow a very rigid RFP structure – this means buyer is not looking for people to “innovate” on RFP, and chance is that buyer is not looking for innovation period – this is not likely to be a good fit either
  • The RFP is likely stretching your company’s resource if you win – the size discrepancy will likely disqualify you – don’t waste the time

The truth is that RFP is often not the best way to get into a new buyer’s door except under drastic situations.  Look for the compelling reason(s) for the buyer to search for a new vendor, if you can’t find that reason, it’s best to look elsewhere for now, and wait for the compelling opportunity to present itself to you (this likely will occur on a “side door”) down the road.

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