In RFPs there are always more losers than winners. The customer can choose a better or cheaper solution, to do the project internally or not at all. To succeed you need the right mindset - Qualify out or win. Qualifying in and ending up second or third is a painful waste of resources.
But many sales organizations struggle with qualifying out. They lack a strong qualification process - flogging dead horses is okay. The strengths of competitor’s relationships, gaps in team capabilities, understanding of individual decision criteria and relevant USPs are just a few of the factors that are often neglected.
Faulty Qualification Process
Qualification should not just be an internal box-ticking exercise that results in few No-go decisions and unpleasant last-minute disappointment. Before committing resources, I recommend conducting a Qualification Interview with the potential customer. Only then can you make a sound go/no go decision, determine activities to mitigate risks or disengage professionally, if required.
Here are some examples of bold client-facing questions used by a professional service firm when qualifying an opportunity:
· Is this business imperative? Who views this as top priority?
· Have you got the budget ear-marked to be sure it gets done?
· What do you look for in a provider relationship?
· What options are you considering?
· What factors do you consider in making a selection?
· What’s your view on the solutions that have been put in front of you?
· How have your experiences working with the potential providers been?
A Winning Sales Process
Once you have decided to pursue the opportunity, you need an outstanding sales process - I created this checklist to help you improve yours.
1. Mitigate all risks identified in qualification and create an Opportunity Roadmap
2. Define who will coach the opportunity team and schedule pit-stops sessions
3. Make your proposal customer-specific – it must feel that it was written for them
4. Define your unique added value and actions to ensure that it is experienced
5. Don’t only focus on your Supporters
6. Validate and improve your Proposal One-Pager with a Coach
7. Develop a Business Case to justify the investment and demonstrate your value
8. Articulate the strengths of your solution for each key stakeholder
9. Define and execute a competitive strategy - why should they buy from you
10. Define game-changers that radically change the customer's perception of you
11. Schedule time to practice and improve your pitch
12. Last but not least, conduct an interview to identify best practices and learn from losses
Is this all necessary?
Yes and no. If your solution is much better or much cheaper than the competition, then maybe you can win with a fast-track sales process. But few companies are in this favorable position. They cannot rely on existing clients to generate enough up-sell opportunities, so winning RFPs at new customers and expanding into new areas at existing accounts is crucial for growth. Do you consider your RFP qualification and win process a company strength?
Written by Phil Kreindler, Deal Coach and Sales Transformation Expert