Not Every RFP Wins, So Salespeople Must Be Careful How They Respond
For most of my career, I’ve been involved with requests for proposals (RFP). First, as a customer looking for equipment and services. Next as a consultant, guiding my clients through the RFP process. Also as a vendor, responding to companies looking for a consultant.
Two things I’ve learned – first, there’s usually only one vendor who wins the business. Second, not every proposal submitted will be successful.
The second lesson seems like an obvious result of the first lesson. However, based on the reactions from some salespeople when their company doesn’t win a bid, it’s worth repeating – not every proposal submitted will be successful.
How a vendor responds to rejection is important. While they may not have won the business in this situation, there may be opportunities in the future. The customer may have different needs, or the purchasing manager may move to another company.
About 25 years ago, I was supervising a small mail center and had issued an RFP for some bill processing equipment. After selecting a scaled-down solution, I notified everyone who submitted a bid. I received phone calls from two sales representatives whose offers I had rejected.
One salesman said I was making a big mistake, and that my decision showed that I didn’t know what I was doing. I let him know I didn’t appreciate his tone, and that I’d spent a lot of money with his company over the past year. His response was, “Not with me.” Five years passed before I would allow anyone from his company to present another proposal.
The other call was from a salesman I’ll call “Ken.” Ken asked if I would explain how I made my selection. After listening, Ken said it sounded like I made a good decision, and asked if he could keep in touch. And he did, even as I moved to different companies.
Two different reactions, and two different results. The first company lost out on bids totaling more than one million dollars’ worth of business. Ken and I did business several times in the following years. As a speaker at national conferences, I’ve repeated this story to thousands of people. As an independent consultant, I never endorse companies. But if a client tells me that Ken is their account manager, I let them know they have a good sales representative on their side.
Drafting responses to RFPs takes considerable time and effort. It can be disappointing when those efforts go unrewarded. It’s important that vendors not allow that disappointment to negatively impact the opportunity of future business.
Input for this piece was provided by Lois Ritarossi, president of High Rock Strategies:
Lois Ritarossi is the President of High Rock Strategies, a consulting firm focused on sales and marketing strategies, and business growth for firms in the print, mail and communication sectors. Lois brings her clients a cross functional skill set and strategic thinking with disciplines in business strategy, sales process, sales training, marketing, software implementation, inkjet transformation and workflow optimization. Lois has enabled clients to successfully launch new products and services with integrated sales and marketing strategies, and enabled sales teams to effectively win new business. You can reach Lois at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mark M. Fallon is president and CEO of The Berkshire Company, a consulting firm specializing in mail and document processing strategies. The company develops customized solutions integrating proven management concepts with emerging technologies to achieve total process management. He offers a vision of the document that integrates technology, data quality, process integrity, and electronic delivery. His successes are based upon using leadership to implement innovative solutions in the document process. You can contact Mark at email@example.com.