Why a million? Just a nice number to say a contract opportunity is worth some effort.
Isn’t a million dollars enough to put some work into a bid opportunity before the RFP comes out?
We’re talking about proactive effort for the million dollar prep. Every contractor expends reactive effort responding to RFPs, but that is after the RFP arrives in email inboxes.
Bid Preparation is Project Management
Many contractors respond to RFPs only when they receive them. Isn’t that strange considering that sometimes they’re the incumbent?
Wouldn’t you hope the incumbent would know:
a) When their current contract ends?
b) When their customer may want to start the bid process to cover that contract end date?
…And knowing that the incumbent would get started early?
However, many incumbent and competitor contractors still wait for the RFP before they get started.
As a result, they end up spending most of their 2 weeks before the bid is due visiting customer sites and working up pricing.
There’s rarely time left to do thinking work and get it into the proposal.
By then it’s the 11th hour and all that’s left is the chaotic sprint to print, review, spell check, correct, reprint, bind and then drive like the wind to FedEx and get the package off in time for delivery.
Too true, isn’t it?
Poor Project Management
Contractors’ subject matter expertise and creativity rarely gets into the proposal doc and that’s what customers are really looking for.
It’s the contractor’s approach to delivering at the customer’s site that is of greatest value. And that’s what customers “try” to give the most weight to in their RFP evaluation.
But most contractors don’t give themselves the time to prepare it, even though they may be the most qualified on the subject. What a shame.
When is the Right Time to Start?
How about starting to gather that critical bid info before Procurement’s cone of silence descends on your contacts and they can’t talk because the RFP is out?
It’s a million or more in spend for the customer, right?
So customers’ Procurement needs to get that bid project on their plate and teed up to complete the award and startup by the end of the current contract.
What’s so hard to figure out?
From the contract end date work backwards. The million dollar bid project will take Procurement anywhere from 3 to 6 months to work.
So if you’re in sales, you’d better be gathering that info between 9 to 12 months before the contract’s end date.
Of course, you’re never done info gathering. You’re constantly adding to and updating. But wouldn’t you rather be “adding to” than “guessing at” when the RFP arrives.
RFPs Don’t Tell You What You Need To Know to Win
The million dollar preparation only applies if you recognize that RFPs don’t really tell you what customers are seeking in terms of solutions for their specific situations.
Most RFPs are inadequate dinosaurs that should have been replaced with current, accurate requests for solutions to customers’ specific facility service issues and goals.
The Million Dollar Preparation
My strong recommendation is for you and your firm to start this prep list for your targeted “A” prospects, those over $1 million dollars annually IN ADVANCE OF THE RFP.
You’ll want to capture this data in a sales database, such as Salesforce.com or ACT or whatever you use.
The data will change over time so it’ll need to be updated as it becomes available.
So here it is. The million dollar preparation. A wish list of bid information gathering. The more you get, the better position you’ll be in when the RFP does come out. You’ll have the inside scoop for creating a truly compelling and persuasive service solution.
Contract end date –> start data gathering min. of 12 months before, give more attention at least 9 months before end date
Current provider (in-house or contractor) –> you can figure out and counter weaknesses, theirs and yours
Competing bidders –> knowing who your likely competition is helps you rephrase your shortfalls into strengths
Decision making process –> online auction, cross-functional team, departmental team only, etc.
Decision makers –> their titles, departments, experience with your service & their roles in decision making
Customer’s current service issues (pains)
Customer’s business areas impacted by those service issues –> this is critical to help make your proposal compelling to the entire organization, not just your service contact
Customer’s business state –> declining, growing, flat, profits going up or down, taken over, in merger talks, laying off, or shutting down
Customer’s industry –> gives insight on customer’s future & helps you better understand their strategic initiatives
Customer’s strategic initiatives –> retooling through technology? reaching for government business? refocusing on core businesses? Going publicly green?
Customer’s brand (public image/face) –> understanding how a customer wants to be perceived means you can better align your proposal to help them achieve that brand image
Customer’s culture –> knowing how the customer wants to work among itself and with partners helps you align to better support them
There will be additional information to gather that is unique to each bid opportunity and customer. But the above list covers most of the critical areas.
What else helps you put together a winning proposal when the RFP comes out?