Securing the RFP

by Bob Poole on March 29, 2012


Many salespeople pass on RFPs (Request for Proposals) from companies because they:

  1. Assume the company is just doing its due diligence and already knows what company they want to use.
  2. Or, that the salesperson is not “big” enough or “experienced” enough to win an RFP. And, let’s face it, RFPs from corporations are difficult to win. But—it’s not impossible. So, now what?

Read the RFP thoroughly from cover to cover. If it’s perfect for you, and you think you could do the job, don’t just respond to it.

Look at your relationship to the company. Find out why the company sent the RFP to your company or to you. How did they get your name? Did someone in your company or firm connect with them at some time? Get the details.

Set a time to talk to the RFP’s decision maker. Be prepared to show you understand their problem and the issues involved. Ask intelligent, thorough questions. Even though most RFPs say “No phone calls or emails,” it doesn’t really mean they’re not prepared to talk to clear up part of their RFP or to clarify the problem.

Find out who your competition is. Who else is competing and decide whether or not you want or can go head-to-head with them. You may find out another firm, client or even relative of yours is competing and decide to bow out. Better to bow out in the beginning than after you’ve submitted what could be a winning, but conflict-of-interest proposal.

Having stated the above, I also will tell you that if you sell in a world where RFP’s are the only way to do business, then you have my sympathy. The image above is my opinion of the RFP process.

Personally, I found that the best way to win the RFP was to write the RFP. That means spending time building relationships which means you had better be compensated with an excellent salary and some type of bonus plan because it takes time. Being on commission is a sure way to fail if RFP’s are de rigueur with your prospects.


“Remember, you only have to succeed the last time.” ~ Brian Tracy

photo compliments of 4nitsirk

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed Healy March 29, 2012 at 4:13 am

Timely, for me, Bob.

Thankfully, most of my business is done without RFPs, based solely on relationships and a track record of past performance.

“Look at your relationship to the company” could be augmented with “and decide if it’s a relationship you want to maintain, or deepen at this time.” I’ve past on a few opportunities because I wasn’t interested in expanding a relationship ‘the that way’, not because I wasn’t interested in doing business with someone.
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Bob Poole March 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

I agree you almost always should focus on your core strengths. I am on vacation and will return April 3rd. Thank you for your comment.

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