Receiving an RFP or RFQ out of the blue can present a dilemma. Should you respond or not?
The reality is, if you didn’t know about the RFP (request for proposal) or RFQ (request for quotation) before it was written, you are entering a game that you have little chance of winning. So, should you play or not?
The RFP or RFQ will not have come out of the blue!
Very few customers draft and issue an RFP or RFQ without first talking either to potential suppliers or retaining consultants (who will also have talked to potential suppliers).
This means that the information requested is based on a vision of the solution that has been created by one or more of your competitors.
Unless you were one of the people involved in the pre-issue discussions, you don’t fully understand the customer’s vision. This means that you don’t know where the value lies, you can’t engineer your solution to match their vision and you have no sponsor inside the organisation.
Given that you cannot compete effectively in this game, you must try to change the objective of the game.
The problem is that the customer will have spent a large number of man-hours and invested politically and emotionally in getting to the point at which they believe that they have the right solution vision. There will be a huge resistance to change.
Can the RFP or RFQ be changed by you?
Your first task is to work out if you can change the RFP or RFQ.
This means very carefully evaluating the request and determining a) what unique defining competence (UDC) you could add that the customer has not asked for, b) under what circumstances they might need it and c) whether the value is significant enough for them to feel compelled to change their RFP or RFQ.
If you can see an opportunity then you must approach the customer before you do any more work on your response.
Persuading your customer to change the RFP or RFQ first is vital
Remember that all RFP or RFQ documents are designed to do one of two things:
- To get the lowest possible overall cost if it is a commodity purchase or
- To get the preferred bidder(s) through to the next stage if it’s a complex purchase
At this point, the customer has no idea that there is value that they need in your UDC. If there was they’d have it in their RFP or RFQ. So you cannot be a preferred bidder.
This means that in the box-ticking, point scoring exercise that follows the responses to the RFQ or RFP your significantly valuable UDC actually has:
- No box to sit in – other than the “additional information or benefits” section where it will only be evaluated in the unlikely event that all other elements are equal
- No points value – as the customer has not recognised the value or significance
If you simply build your UDC into your response without first selling it to your customer, it will probably have no impact at all.
Beginning to change the RFP or RFQ
Once the RFP or RFQ has been issued, some organisations – especially government bodies, have a policy of not talking to responders.
Unless you can arrange a meeting with all the key players; you cannot begin to make the changes you need. So don’t be put off by the policies.
This is one of those situations when you have to call high in the organisation; that is the only place where there will be enough power to force those meetings to happen.
When you make these phone calls you need to use the significant value that you have potentially uncovered in order to secure the meeting. That is all you are aiming for at this point – a meeting to discuss additional significant value to your customer.
The chances are that the initial meeting, and certainly any subsequent meetings, will be attended by the people who drafted the RFP or RFQ. So, it is crucial that the meeting is 100% positive; that you position yourself clearly as an honest broker who has discovered a way to create additional value for the customer.
Your strategy for changing the RFP or RFQ
If you can persuade the RFP or RFQ team to begin to explore the additional value you need to decide what your overall strategy is:
- Re-engineer the RFP or RFQ so that you have significant advantage and can take the whole deal
- Divide the purchase so that your offering is separated from the main purchase and budget
Declining to respond to an RFP or RFQ
It may be that:
- Your evaluation of the RFP or RFQ shows no significant advantage or
- The customer doesn’t agree with your assessment or
- You cannot arrange the meetings that you need
In all of these cases, there is simply no point in investing time, money and resources in creating a response. You need to decline gracefully with a reply that keeps the door open and positions some additional benefits (even if you can’t see that they need them at the moment). Something along the lines of:
‘Thank you for your request to propose a solution (or quote). Having evaluated your document, we have concluded that you are not currently looking for a solution that includes:
- UDC benefit statement 1
- UDC benefit statement 2
- UDC benefit statement 3 …
Therefore we have decide not to propose a solution (or quote) this time, but would like to remain in contact with you as your requirements change.”
The bluebird RFP or RFQ – last thoughts
The next time an unexpected RFP or RFQ presents itself, give this process a try. While I can’t guarantee that following this process will work every time, I know, from experience, that it does work more times than simply responding with no attempt to talk to the customer.
Technorati Tags: quotation, quote, pricing, product management, sales, RFP, RFQ, request, response
Windows Live Tags: quotation, quote, pricing, product management, sales, RFP, RFQ, request, response