IT Sales Tips , , ,

How to play the public Request for Proposal (RFP) game – and win

Organizations will make a decision to enter an RFP (Request for Proposal) process when there is a need for change. There are steps that the organization will take, before proceeding to an RFP format. There is a need to write a document which lays out the required objectives first, after which, some vendors will have an opportunity to provide a proposal to meet those objectives.

A request for proposal is a good way to see different ideas and different concepts on how to govern the IT infrastructure. Say for instance,  the business has decided that it needs an IT partner to help with network monitoring and patching of servers. IT partners can provide everything on a pro-active schedule. This frees up time that system admins spend on manually patching servers. Network issues have to be tackled by a different team, a network administration team.

Outsourcing some select parts of the infrastructure like this can be helpful, especially in large environments where many man hours are spent on these aspects. The business may require all components of the infrastructure to be outsourced, to save money on resources. In any case, proceeding to a RFP function makes sense. A Request for Proposal allows you to work with a number of different IT partners – and the best part is, the entire engagement will be free. A consultant will have  to write the RFP – that part can cost. As long as you have an internal IT resource, who can summarize the needs and requirements, you don’t need to pay a consultant to write the RFP for you.

Here’s some tips on how to win the RFP process:

  1. Be sure to read the requirements over and over a few times. Understand the need  – this is the main component that will drive the entire process. You need to keep the client’s vision and their goals at top of mind. The entire proposal document you write, needs to be a response to this vision and goals. Don’t get carried away and build something that strays from the vision – keep it simple. Keep the client’s objectives in your sights. Write responses that answer exactly to the questions and concerns being expressed in the initial RFP document.
  2. How does the client score the process? What is most important to the client? If the scoring is 90 % based on price (such as a simple procurement for equipment), is the RFP still worthwhile for participation? You will find that an RFP for services should be scored differently, than say a RFQ for procurement only. The client may score 60% of the process on price, 20% on complexity of solution, 20% on references and previous works, etc. Understanding how the RFP will be scored is intrinsic to winning the business for your company.
  3. Be expressive in the solution. Show how it will work. Use diagrams, have a methodology. One you have the solution depicted, put work effort against the solution. There should be a flow to your document – client vision, the solution to match the vision, and estimated work effort.
  4. Think of what your competition is doing. Is your solution better? Is your chosen solution the same? What will differentiate you from the competition?
  5. Price. In order to win, you may not have to have the absoloute lowest bid – but you need to be competitive. If you have an idea of where your competition will price their solution, see if you can do a little bit better. Sometimes even a gap of a couple thousand dollars can net you the project. In today’s economy, price matters.

Note: Pricing the solution comes right back around to the customer’s initial objectives. Take a look at how they score the RFP process. How important is the price to the client, in how the process will be scored? Does the price constitute for 50% of the total score – or a much different number?