Responding to an Invitation to Tender or Request for Proposal (RFP) can seem like a lot of work with a limited chance of success. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are my top ten tips for improving your win rate.
1. Build relationships
Start building relationships early. Get to know the decision makers; their buying processes and what they look for in their suppliers. With sufficient insight you can respond to their next RFP much more effectively.
2. Play to your strengths
There is no point pitching for business that you can’t deliver. So when a new RFP is issued take a long, dispassionate view of the requirements and ask yourself:
- Do you have the ability and resources to fulfil the contract?
- Will you need to invest in new technology and, if you do, will the ROI justify that?
- Do you have the required industry accreditations, such as ISO9001 or CSA STAR certifications?
It probably took your customer several weeks to write the Tender or RFP. Use it to precisely map your strengths to the specified requirements. Don’t include anything which is irrelevant. Don’t leave out anything which is important.
4. Stand out from the crowd out
Make a point of visiting the customer before you pitch. Not only does a site visit help to raise your profile and create or reaffirm the relationship, but it gives you an excellent opportunity to gain additional insight as to what might secure the business.
5. Listen, ask and listen
Ask probing questions and listen carefully to the answers. Pay close attention to how things are said as well as what is said. Empathy and intuition can help you discover the customer’s real (perhaps unacknowledged) needs and pain points.
6. Pay attention to detail
The best relationships are founded on mutual success, so approach your prospect with this in mind. Think about how you can add value at every stage of the pitching process. Build desire. Even small benefits can add a lot of value.
7. Develop advantage
Try to work out who you’re likely to be competing with. Do you have a genuine competitive edge? If not, can you create one? Can you win on innovation? How can you defeat heavy discounters? Could you offer advantageous billing terms? Is leasing an option?
Research your competitors. Use their web sites and social media to see how they operate and what they specialise in. If you understand their strengths and weaknesses you can identify areas where you can give yourself a competitive advantage.
9. Review Meetings
Reviews let you monitor and improve performance, as well as giving you a chance to identify new opportunities and build closer, multi-level relationships which help to lock out the competition.
10. Learn from experience
You won’t win every tender but you should be able to work out why you lost. Make the effort to ask for the reasons– was it on price, offering or resources? Once you have the reply, consider how you could have improved your bid to win the business.
Whatever happens, keep listening and learning. If you won, perform regular and honest reviews and do whatever you can to strengthen the relationship and keep the business. If you lost, adjust your strategy and keep the dialogue open, and keep in touch with the prospect just in case the winner doesn’t perform as expected. Sometimes, the substitute wins the game.
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Great point to think about when going for a tender!
One more to think about which is a tough call is when to say “no thank you, maybe next time”
Thanks for commenting Pete, you are right not every tender is financially viable and sometimes the hardest thing to do is say “no”. Perhaps an idea for a future article?
[…] question arose after we posted our 10 Top Tips for Winning Large Bids and Tenders article. A commenter mentioned that sometimes you have to say “thanks, but no thanks” to […]
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