Understanding prospects

Low bids lose RFP competitions when evaluators have doubts about the technical solution’s reliability or completeness, or the vendor’s ability to perform, or to meet the delivery schedule, or some other aspect of the bidder’s offer.

And nothing raises doubts like a bidder who fails to show insight about the issuer and its needs. When a response simply parrots back the RFP requirements, evaluators can’t risk assuming the bidder understands.

Thinking beyond the RFP

For obvious reasons, RFPs don’t include issuer motives such as “due to a 20 percent drop in market share” or “because of persistent quality issues with our products.” But most prospects willing to make a large financial investment are responding to some current or anticipated pain.

Your job is to trace the “chain of pain” so you can tailor a solution to address it—and express through your offer that you understand. Do that with:

  1. Sales discovery: Effective business developers build relationships and work to understand exactly what’s needed, which departments are impacted, who are likely to evaluate the responses and who is driving the process. This firsthand knowledge is ideal for strategy planning. If this is not available, try options 2 and 3.
  2. Research the prospect: Visit the company website. If it’s publicly traded, check its most recent MD&A, shareholder letters and press releases. Read the analysts’ reports. Look for mentions in trade and business publications. Google for media mentions of senior executives by name.
  3. Research comparable companies: Search the Web for similar companies. What issues are they facing? Google combinations of your prospect’s name and those of its main competitors to uncover rivalries and who is winning. Search financial news sites for industry trends.

Even without firsthand knowledge, an hour on Google may help you shape a solution that responds to your prospect’s unstated needs.

Thinking about who’ll make the decision

In the end, companies don’t feel pain—people do. So you need to learn who will be involved in the contract decision and how to appeal to each. That’s the next stage in your research.

One classic approach to buyer theory defines three categories corresponding to organizational roles:

  • Economic buyers are the final decision makers—they “write the cheque.”
  • Technical buyers are specialists who analyse technical features and act as gatekeepers
  • User buyers are those most directly impacted by the solution

The next three posts will look more closely at these buyer types and how to craft value propositions that show you understand and will satisfy their main concerns.

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