From Biz Journals

How to win at the RFP game

Ahhhh, the request for proposal(RFP) — for many, giving birth to an elephant is a more appealing option than responding to an RFP.

And yet, while most despise answering an RFP, many professionals rely on them as a meaningful source for new business.

If you’re one of these people, I encourage you to start developing thought leadership as a means to endear yourself to the all-powerful, all-knowing purchasing agent.

To know you is to love you

Purchasing agents (PAs), who were once heavily reliant on and influenced by salespeople, now do a majority of their due diligence via the internet. This has effectively taken the salesperson out of the equation and leveled the playing field.

In fact, a recent CEB study found that nearly 60 percent of the purchasing decision is now completed before the agent ever has a conversation with a supplier.

Here’s what this means:

  1. The ability to educate PAs and earn credibility during their due diligence process is vital to winning their business
  2. Most purchasing agents have formed their opinion about each vendor and have already determined their favorites prior to receiving their RFP
  3. If the PA team learns about your company for the first time while reading your response to their RFP, you’ve already lost

For most companies, PAs are asked to source a wide variety of products and services and thus, they tend to have a limited understanding of them. Today, it might be an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. Tomorrow, it could be a supply chain management firm to handle the design and development of a new distribution center in Idaho.

When coupled with the complexity of all the decision-making criteria and the large number of people involved, PAs need to get educated quickly, and their go-to educational resource is the Internet. It is during the due diligence stage that the PAs are at their most receptive and impressionable.

Not coincidentally, this will be your best opportunity to demonstrate your expertise and secure your place on their “favorites” list.

Thought leadership has replaced the salesperson

Thought leadership is unbiased content that provides the answers to the biggest questions on the minds of purchasing agents and their teams; it is a form of content marketing that is communicated through blog articles, white papers, e-books, videos, how-to guides, podcasts, etc.

However, for thought leadership to be effective, it can’t be sales-focused. While it’s important to include your unique perspective, ideas and insights, the content must remain educational and unbiased in its message.

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