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Sales Strategy
May 7, 2010 | Michel Theriault lock

You can improve your chances and get higher scores on your proposals with strategic information and details that will have the evaluators nodding their heads in agreement when they read it and give you the advantage over your competition.

Getting the information is easier than you think by using your network, the internet and other sources. Here are some of the ways you can get it and use it to your advantage:

Put your ear to the ground
Look closely at your own employees. Find out who has past connections with your competitors or the client. Bring them in when you're developing strategy and to provide insight or connections with the client that you can explore. Using these connections, speak with existing client employees before the Request for Proposal (RFP) is issued to beat the moratorium on contact with the client during the RFP process.

Seek out past employees from the client and your competition. Meet with them to get their insights, including issues, perceptions, preferences, terminology and problems you may not otherwise have known about. Use this information carefully, since they may not have been involved at the right levels or their information may be old. In any case, the more information you have, the better your proposal will be.

Example: When bidding on a service for a client whose industry they were not experienced with, the bidder discovered that one of their employees had worked with the client in a previous position. The employee was added as a key member of the transition team, neutralizing lack of experience as an issue.

Learn more about the client
Search the Internet for the latest annual reports, news articles, official press releases and other public information about the client. Review them for information to help set strategy, show you understand the client’s business or enhance your solution. Referring to details, terms and situations in your proposal that the client uses makes what you say more credible and memorable when the evaluate your bid.

If the client is a government or other public or semi-public institution, search for committee or meeting minutes to find information you can use.

Example: An RFP was issued with a very general scope and no background about the initiative. The client was a municipality, so council minutes and reports were publicly available. A committee report from the previous year approved the RFP and had more details about their needs. These details were used in the response.

Research your competition
The same kind of Information about your competition can also be used to your advantage. Depending on the procurement process, you may not know who the bidders are, so network and use your resources to narrow it down.

If your competition has had problems, bad press, was recently merged or taken over, just won another major contract or other situations that impacts their ability to do the job, indirectly refer to the issues and position your own company positively to make the client think twice when they review your competitor’s bid.

Example: A competitor was in the press for illegal labour practices. By referring to recent news reports about illegal labour practices - without naming names – we explained our own practices and our track record. The issue was now firmly planted in the client’s mind when they read the competition’s bid.

Understand who the key players are
Find out who is involved in the RFP process, the evaluators and the decision-makers.  Search the internet and social networking sites (such as LinkedIn) and talk to their past employees. Find your own employees who have worked for or with the client and ask them. Research whether the client is involved in an industry association, charity, or community group. Search for articles, seminars or presentations they may have given. All these will reveal their preferences, position on issues and other details you can tie into your proposal.

Example: Digging deep on the client’s website uncovered an organizational chart that helped us identify how the service fit into the organization and the name of the manager responsible for the service. An internet search on the name revealed their previous jobs and the industry associations they were involved in, including industry issues they were working on. This enabled us to emphasize some of our own experiences that matched with his background and interests.

When responding to an RFP, the more information you use strategically to write your proposal, the more compelling and interesting your proposal will be to the client. They’ll pay more attention to what you have to offer and it will give you an edge over your competition.

About the Author:

Michel is an independent consultant with experience writing successful RFP responses and has worked with client organizations to develop RFP specifications, questions, evaluation matrices and performance metrics in addition to training evaluators and evaluating RFP responses. His upcoming book, “Win More Business ... Write Better Proposals” helps service providers improve their proposals.

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