There was a time when I would have celebrated with you that your best prospect had just sent in an RFP (request for proposal). Now when I hear those fateful words, I shake my head and wonder what went wrong?
By the time the customer has formed an RFP, most of the value in the project has evaporated. That’s why RFPs exist – they are to ensure that the customer doesn’t pay more for something than they feel it is worth. However, the amount of profit that someone is willing to let you earn is based on their perception of value, risk, and reward. Not yours.
There is substantial additional value in your intellectual property, expertise, and innovation. An RFP assumes that these intangible contributions are value-added (read: free). How did the customer come to all these unfounded conclusions? Simple. You never gave them any reason to expect differently.
Here is what is supposed to happen: You identify your target customer. Then you tailor your message to speak their language and establish you as an expert in your field (marketing). Next you seek out these targeted prospects (lead generation) and engage them in an intelligent conversation about their needs, pains, and intended outcomes (business development). If you are successful, then before they “create” their next RFP, they will come to you for advice and input (sales). If you skip any one of these steps, then you run the risk of getting someone else’s idea of how you should do business.
We call this process, “Getting in Front of the RFP” and it focuses on establishing credibility and rapport in such a way that the customer expects a high value for what you do and seek you out before their next move. Sellers that use these methods to develop prospects greatly improve their negotiating position if not actually eliminate the need to negotiate at all.