Suppose an RFP (request for proposal) lands in your inbox. Your first reaction is probably along the lines of “BINGO!” – you have a lead that has (some) budget and has most likely made the decision to purchase a product or service for their needs. Saying ‘yes’ seems like a no-brainer. But is it really?
It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of receiving an RFP, particularly when it comes from a new potential client. But what if the client or project isn’t a good fit for your business? And will you actually be able to fulfill the client’s requirements?
Immediately going all-in on formulating an RFP bid response to win the business can cost your company a lot of wasted time and money. Winning an RFP that turns out to be unsuitable can end badly, both in terms of revenue and reputation.
Sometimes you need to know when the RFP is a ‘no-go’. So what is the cut-off line between saying ‘yes’ and dedicating time and resources, i.e. money, and saying ‘no’ and moving on to the next RFP?
The Easy Ones
On rare occasions, the ‘no’ decision may be easy. You read through the RFP once and realize very quickly that your product/service/offering will not work for the prospect’s needs. You simply move on, no skin in the game and no let-downs on either side down the line.
On equally rare occasions, the ‘yes’ decision can be just as easy. You read the RFP and get that familiar tingle down your spine, knowing you are definitely going to hit a home run and win the business.
Quite often, though, the line lies somewhere between the easy ‘yes’ and the easy ‘no’. Meet the gray area, where most of the real-world business is being done!
The Gray Area
Ask questions. If you’re able to connect with the champion or decision-maker, make every effort to do so. A lot of information can be “lost in translation” between the company’s vision of the project and what the RFP is asking for.
The more information you can gather from the decision-maker, the better off you will be. Ask about the root problem. Ask about their current process for addressing this problem. Ask about the tipping point that drove this project. And ask about the budget. This can be a tricky situation, but make sure you’re both in the same ballpark. If they are reluctant to respond, try giving them a way out by stating, if possible, that you have worked on similar projects in the past, where you charged X amount of dollars. This is an easy way of setting expectations.
Finally, ask, “What does it take to win?” Ask them bluntly, ask them multiple times, and each time you will get a slightly different answer that will provide insight into their decision-making process.
If talking to the champion or decision-maker beforehand isn’t an option, carefully consider how detailed the RFP is and if it has given you enough information to confidently submit a winning bid.
Also, consider your team:
Are they available to pitch in their expertise before the deadline?
Are they swamped with other, more important projects?
Does this opportunity excite them?
Do they have the tools to respond properly?
These are all important and somewhat obvious questions, but sometimes the basics get lost in the details.
To determine whether an RFP should get a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you need to ask yourself a few key questions. Do you want to win this business? Is this right in your wheelhouse? If it’s outside your comfort zone, will this push your business into new avenues that could create more business? Or will it push you into a direction you have no intention of going?
Only you know what’s best for your business, and like you have done so many times before, make a choice between saying ‘yes’ or saying ‘no’.
Lars holds a degree In Marketing from BI Norwegian Business School. He has previously worked for energy and insurance companies as well as IT companies. Lars enjoys having a busy schedule and loves helping companies change the way they work. When not at work he is an avid outdoorsman and loves skiing and hikes in nature.
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