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  • Writer's pictureBrian Burns

4 Questions That MUST be Answered Before Responding to an RFP

When it comes to B2B sales, we’ve been taught to be cautious of RFPs (or Request for Proposals); and for good reason. After all, who wants to waste their time responding to an RFP when the likelihood of gaining the prospect’s business is slim-to-none?

However, some sales experts out there not only condone responding to RFPs but cite them as the single most effective way to generate more business. As a sales trainer, this leaves many of my clients confused as to how they should treat the RFPs in their inbox.

The fact of the matter is, a Request for Proposal can be hit or miss in terms of its ability to win you a new customer. While the general consensus is to decline an RFP, you may actually benefit from providing a response. With that said, it’s important to receive answers to these 4 questions BEFORE doing so:

Questions to Ask Yourself

Why am I receiving this?

When considering if the RFP you’ve just received is worth your time or not, it’s critical to first ask yourself why it came to you in the first place. If the request came totally unsolicited, then the chances of you actually benefiting in the exchange are probably non-existent.

Its common practice for B2B prospects to send an RFP to a company they think is similar to one or several they are already considering. This proves they’ve done their due diligence when it comes to researching solutions, and gives them ammo for potential negotiations with the company they’re truly interested in (hint: it's NOT yours).

A good rule of thumb: if you’ve done absolutely nothing to receive the RFP, then you should expect nothing -- sans a loss of time -- from responding to it.

Why should I complete it?

It’s important to be brutally honest with yourself when answering this question. If your only reason for responding to an RFP is because it’s easier than actually prospecting, then you shouldn’t expect the same likelihood for success.

Many salespeople will jump at the chance to reply to an RFP simply because they lack a proper sales pipeline. If you’re one of these poor souls, I’m sorry to say that you’re setting yourself up for failure. Remember: answering RFPs is NOT a substitute method for creating a bulletproof pipeline, nor should it be.

Questions to Ask the Supposed Prospect

Why are you sending this RFP?

As shocking as it may sound, some companies will send out RFPs every few years to ensure they are getting the best bang for their buck from their current providers. If this is the case, just say NO (in a professional way, of course).

On the other hand, if the prospect says they’re interested in seeing what’s out there on the market or want to take a closer look at what you offer, then there might be a window of opportunity for you to reel them in.

If they can’t tell you why they’ve sent the request, then it’s not worth your time. In this scenario, the prospect is likely dissatisfied with their existing partners, and wants to put pressure on them to offer more for less by showing them what you (their competitor) can provide.

Are you serious about changing? If so, why?

Many RFPs come from prospects who really aren’t looking for a change. However, from time to time you’ll get a company that is serious about shaking things up; perhaps they’ve been working with the same provider with little to no positive results, or maybe they want to add a product/service like yours to what they already have.

If this is the case, you’re definitely not hurting yourself by responding to their RFP. Once you’ve successfully explained how whatever it is you offer can improve their business and add serious value, you could actually net a sale.

The Conclusion

As you can see, in some instances RFPs can end up being a great opportunity. Sometimes it may be wise to take a flyer on one, however, you’ll need to use your best judgement beforehand.

In sales, we never want to waste our time on something that won’t result in a deal (or at least has a good possibility of doing so). If you’re in need of further guidance when it comes to RFPs, or simply want to hear new B2B sales tips, I suggest you check out my podcast: The Brutal Truth About Sales & Selling.

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