So an RFP (request for proposal) magically appears in your inbox. Our first reaction is usually “BINGO!”, we have a lead who has (some) budget and has most likely made the decision to purchase a product for their needs. As a company who prides its self on delivering a tool that makes the proposal writing and response process easier and more efficient, we will admit that we do have a bit of an edge over a traditional company who is not purposefully set up to respond to proposals. Although with that being said, there are times when we will read through a proposal and kindly reply with a politely worded “No thank you.” So what is the cut-off line between saying YES and dedicating time and resources, AKA money, and saying NO and moving onto the next?
The Easy Ones
On rare occasions the “NO” decision may be easy, you take one read through and realize very quickly that your product/service/offering is not going to work for their needs and 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 through the RFP and get the tingle down your spine as you know you are absolutely going to to hit a home run and get the business. Although many times the line lies somewhere between the easy yes and the easy no, welcome to the grey area where most business is done.
The Grey Area
Ask questions. If you are able to connect with the champion or decision maker make every effort to do so. As we all know, there can be A LOT of information 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 be sure that you both are 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 to this in the past we charged X amount of dollars. This is an easy way of setting expectations. And finally ask , “What does it take to win?” Ask them bluntly, ask them multiple times and each time you ask you will get a sightly different answer that will give insight into their decision making process.
Now 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. 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 properly respond? All important and somewhat obvious questions but sometimes the basics are what get lost in the details.
In the end, you need to ask yourself a few 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 you business, and like you have done so many times before, make the choice between saying YES or saying NO.