How to avoid Poison Apple RFPs

If you respond to customers’ Request for Proposals (RFPs) beware of poisoned apples. One bite, and it’s death to high win rates and big commissions.

But how’s a little bunny to know if the apple’s poisoned?

At the end of this article there’s a free RFP Decision Tool to download, it’ll help you avoid poisoned apples.

But read on, there’s more to the story.

Most RFPs represent attractive, healthy opportunities for sales reps and their firms. Good RFPs are customers’ authentic and rational approach to buying their best value solutions.

However, there are RFPs that look appetizing but once tasted are poisonous.

What does a Poison Apple RFP taste like?

Poison apple RFPs are a fatal waste of time for sales reps. And time is the one and only resource you and your firm can never regain – the ultimate pain to avoid.

Also, poisoned RFPs take your focus off the good apple opportunities you should pursue. And how sad would you be when you learn your competitor has just secured your most desirable, attractive opportunity; the one you’ve been chasing for years? And all because you were distracted going after this poisoned apple.

Lastly, if you are unfortunate enough to win the contract from a poison apple RFP, you may not even feel its poisonous effects until later.

But don’t worry, the hurt is coming. You’ll soon find your new customer has devilish demands for extras at no cost, or evil expectations for unrealistic performance, or they’ve started you on the death dance of slow payment.

There are many reasons why you never want to taste poisoned RFPs; for more info read To Bid, or Not to Bid.

What does a Poison Apple RFP look like?

The challenge with poison apple RFPs is that they are not always easy to spot.

Sometimes you may get lucky and see green smoke swirling up from them, or smell their decaying fumes in the wind of an upcoming bid. Alas, those are the obvious poisoned apples, and as such are easy to detect and flee from.

The majority of RFPs don’t expose themselves that easily.

So experienced sales reps temper their excitement when receiving RFPs with a healthy dose of self-preservation. They quickly winnow out the low probability RFPs from those with a potentially high degree of success.

But they also do this: they instantly assess any RFP that looks like a poisoned apple and immediately drop-kick it far away.

Assess before you bite – a free RFP Decision Tool

No sales rep willingly bites a poisoned apple, so assess before taste-testing. Smart idea ‘eh? Download RFP Decision Tool

Here’s a FREE tool to help you avoid poison apple RFPs. It’s an Excel 2010 template with several areas you can customize (NOTE: Windows may ask you to “Enable” the file the first time you use it – Hey, that’s not me, that’s Microsoft.)

The RFP Decision Tool is a simple weighting – rating matrix, with a decision message that pops up based on a percentage score (ratings against a total possible).

You’ll want to set it up before you use it. It’s a one time setup and hopefully not that hard to do….if you follow these instructions

Initial (1-time) Setup

To setup your RFP Decision Tool, first download the file and save it to your computer. Then complete the following steps in order:

#1 Criteria (a) – Accept the criteria in place or change the text in the “Criteria” column to make it yours.

Setup - Criteria: RFP Decision Tool


#2 Importance (b) – Weight each criteria for its importance. Use the dropdown list in the “Importance” column and select 1 to 3, where 1 = LO and 3 = HI importance, or N/A if the criteria doesn’t apply.

Setup - Importance: RFP Decision Tool


#3 Decision Message (c) – Accept the decision messages in place or change the text in “Decision Message” rows to make it yours.

Setup - Decision Message: RFP Decision Tool


#4 Save File – Now that you’ve customized this to your liking, go to the Excel menu FILE / SAVE AS – name and save the file as an Excel template (this will allow you to start with a new file each time).  That’s it for setup. Now it’s time to use it – see how below.

Setup - Save As: RFP Decision Tool



This is the easy part.

#1 Create a new Excel file from your customized Excel template (My_Own_RFP_Decision_Tool.xltx)

How to Use - New File: RFP Decision Tool


#2 Rate how “Bad” or “Good” each criteria looks to you, where 0=BAD and 10=GOOD

How to Use - Rating: RFP Decision Tool


# 3 Read your RFP Opportunity Score and Decision Answer at the top. You may, or may not want to pursue this opportunity based on this weighted rating.

How to Use - Decision Answer: RFP Decision Tool



Whether you use this RFP Decision Tool or just wing it. You’ll be better off for assessing the apple in front of you before taking a bite.

Good luck and let me know how, or if this tool works for you.

Image by Sherwin Sibala

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