We are a proudly South African company and as such most of our staff can speak at least two languages, English and Afrikaans. We focus on delivering software solutions to a broad range of companies that in most cases respond to RFxs or tenders. For our sins, we also spend a lot of our own time bidding for business in the same manner.
We were in a session the other day and we were discussing a 200-question RFP that had come in from sales and was expected to be completed within 24 hours. My immediate reaction was “you’ve got to be kidding?” In fact my immediate reaction was not fit for print, but it was kind of like “you’ve got to be kidding?”. We all joked about running it through a “Bid, No Bid?” RFP process but decided that in some cases we should refer to it as a “Bid, Nou Bid”!!
The humour in this subtle statement is driven by the language, but is also accessible to anyone that has been in a similar situation. The Afrikaans word “Nou” means “now” in English. The Afrikaans word “bid” means “pray” in English.
So what we technically have with the correct switch of language is…. Bid? Now pray!
I am sure many teams feel exactly that way when a short notice RFP lands. Sure, there are great scientific models to decide whether we should respond or not. Can we deliver value? Do we have a relationship? Who are the competitors? Blah blah...
But when that RFP lands and the brand on the cover sheet is recognisable and attractive, everybody from the Sales person to the building janitor wants to bid! No one really wants the effort, sleepless nights and pain the response is likely to create, but everyone deep down believes that they have a chance of winning that bid. That’s why we do this stuff every day, because we believe we can win pretty much anything. (note: maybe I am out of line here and not everybody feels this way, but everybody at Qorus does;-)
So what do you do... Pray?
Well no, you look for every reason why you should bid. I am not sure about other industries but we don’t have the luxury of rejecting opportunities just because they might spoil our win rate. Every opportunity that comes our way is scoured to find the reason why we should bid.
You quickly assess if this is unwinnable and that should be pretty easy. Your team know your product/s and know your value proposition. If there is no alignment don’t bid.
If there is even a hint of alignment, focus on those areas and find a reason to bid.
If your Sales person believes that he can share and embed your value proposition and he has access to content that supports that view… then bid, don’t pray.
If you have a team (or access to) of competent subject matter experts (SMEs) who intimately understand your product and who also have solid domain knowledge of the industries you serve... bid, don’t pray.
If these SMEs can create content but also have access to searchable content that they have created and managed over the years... bid, don’t pray.
If your bid team has easy access to quality content that has been used in previous bids and can be easily searched and inserted into the response... bid, don’t pray.
Make this part of your RFP process, the decision to bid, as easy as possible.
In this day and age, selling is tough for pretty much everyone. Put the mechanisms in place to support the sales process everywhere you can in your organization. If it can be automated, automated it. If it can’t be automated (and much of the sales process can’t be), then at least try and make the repetitive and often time consuming manual steps as predictable and effective as possible.
Get your valuable content into the right hands as quickly as possible. Sales is about education and information, so make sure your team is educated and informed
Have the right resources available and ensure that they are well equipped. Make sure that as many people as possible are working on defining the value and not on tracking down answers and relevant content... For pete’s sake, BID! And if you think it’s going to help, then you can pray.
I have been in the IT industry for 33 years and have been selling for 23 of those years. I know the RFP process is a LOT more complicated than I am suggesting here. It’s a blog post intended to entertain and share a view, nothing more.
You can never be too careful…. If prayer is an important part of your sales process I fully respect that. Please don’t mistake my use of the concept as trying to demean or devalue the power of prayer.
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