Avoid the RFP Dilemma using Competitive Intelligence
If you are in the B2B space, you most likely make a living when your proposal wins the RFP (Request for Proposal) process. Public companies, large corporations and all municipal and federal work requires an RFP process. Businesses in the technology, construction, architecture, infrastructure, marketing, environmental, consulting, food service, utility and education, to name a few, spend billions of dollars per year to carefully prepare proposals to fit the RFP document. You can be sure that your proposal will be compared to no less than 3 competitors and sometimes as many, if not more than 12.
The RFP can take as much as a month or more to prepare and may be accepted or rejected for many months after the deadline. The reality, there is no second place, although there are many businesses proud to be told that they were considered in the top two. There is only one winner and every other business that submitted a bid is a loser. So what can your business do to develop a strategy to win the RFP dilemma?
Of course, the first task any business must prepare for in an RFP is to understand the process itself. Not every RFP is the same, therefore understanding the specific project details are critical to success. But, no matter how well you learn the details and are able to respond to tight deadlines and last minute requests, unless you know your competition inside and out, you are still going in blind.
Collecting competitive intel on a regular basis will make the difference between winning and losing in the RFP game. If one of your competitors is regularly coming in first, then it is up to you to learn “WHY” and to leverage the information to “WIN”.
Many businesses believe that price is the final determining factor in who wins the RFP bid. However, price can generally be negotiated with the client initiating the RFP when, or if, you win the bid. Many times a second or third place finalist will be asked back to respond to questions that the client already has answers from in the first place businesses bid. But, if this happens on a regular basis in your RFP process it is because YOU DON’T KNOW YOUR COMPETITION.
Believing you can network your way to winning an RFP will get you in trouble. Generally, businesses are disqualified from the process if it is found that they have tried to promote themselves to be chosen or gathered too much inside information to be considered. Therefore, your ONLY OPTION TO WIN is to know your competitors.
The most important segment of any RFP is the answer to the question: “How do you stand out from your competition?” If you don’t know everything there is to know about your competitors, you are at an unnecessary disadvantage. You need to know your competitors to be at the forefront — END OF STORY!
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