Professional Selling Skills: A Recent Question Regarding RFPs

Following the webinar Mark conducted last week entitled, “Winning Sales Strategies in Difficult Times,” a reader emailed: “It was very informative and I appreciated the question about the RFP, because I am in that position now. I felt that I didn’t want to give our pricing structure. The specifics of how to be cursory about that would be really helpful. I am interested in more information on this topic.”

The Sales Hunter’s response: “Ask the client upfront if this is how they normally select vendors and, in particular, ask them if they use RFPs when trying to make strategic decisions. If we believe what we sell is critical and can make a difference, then it means it’s a strategic decision and not a commodity-oriented decision. Thus, it warrants more thinking than mere price.

Second, ask them how they will determine the difference between “X” and if they’ve thought about several different key differences that wouldn’t be exposed in an RFP. The idea is to get the customer thinking and, more importantly, to get them to invite you to a discussion after the RFPs have all been responded to. This will allow you to have a value-added discussion with the customer.

The third idea is a strategy that carries risk, but is very viable if you or your company has a solid reputation and you know you’ll be part of the finalist group. Rather than responding word-for-word to the RFP, answer only in broad terms. Also, include numerous questions for the customer in your response. The idea is for the customer to see you didn’t respond to the RFP, but due to your expertise and reputation, they need to make sure they have a sit-down meeting with you. It is risky, but for those companies and salespeople who spend too much time responding to RFPs, this is a great option.

No matter what you do always, respond to the RFP by leaving out one piece of information or making something not quite clear enough that the customer is forced to follow up with you for clarification. This follow up contact gives you an opportunity to discuss the merits of what you offer.”

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