How to Prepare Your Team to Win Competitive RFP Bids

Teams that currently have excess bandwidth due to slower than typical business conditions in the “new normal” have been turning their attention to training opportunities and knowledge improvement. It’s also a great time to catch up on those foundational projects that never seem to bubble to the top during typical business periods, things like creating or maintaining policies, procedures or guides for internal use.

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Ok, these items might not bubble to the top just because of time — they may seem like they’re not the most fun projects on the planet either. But if you take the right approach, that doesn’t have to be the case. (More on this later….)

In our RFP process guide, Developing a Powerhouse RFP Response Process for Your Small Bid Team, we presented the idea of maintaining an “Evergreen Competitor Review” to support sales and bid teams in smaller organizations. If you haven’t read our guide (yet!), you might be asking yourself, what is an Evergreen Competitor Review?

An Evergreen Competitor Review is a competitor analysis, performed to track key elements of their businesses and offerings. These are items you’ll need to understand in order to compete effectively against them. In particular, understanding their latest product or service feature sets will be indispensable to your ability to effectively differentiate your offer from theirs.

The “evergreen” part is a designation that this is information that is up-to-date today and, more importantly, is actively updated continuously. This part may sound both daunting and unnecessary. We don’t believe that either is true — with the right techniques, you can manage to update this information continuously. And with some ingenuity, you can also reduce the pain and maybe add some fun while you’re at it.

But first, we wanted to share why this is necessary. There is a great deal to be gained by organizations that do a better job of understanding where they fit in the marketplace at all times. 

Positioning Yourself to Win the Bid

In AOC Key Solutions’ comprehensive eBook on developing a proposal plan, the section on Win Strategy begins with “Win Themes and Discriminators.” Discriminators, as the word suggests, are the features of your offer that are uniquely different from the features your competitors offer. A thorough understanding of the competition will enable you to clearly articulate your unique benefits so that you can stand out.

You might be thinking that this can easily be updated at the time you’re writing your RFP response. But you may want to reconsider this thought when you turn to Win Themes. AOC Key Solutions defines Win Themes as “messages that contain a feature, claim, or benefit that addresses some critical or major issue of concern to the customer that are likely to resonate with the proposal evaluator” (the bolding is mine). 

That means that the critical moments leading up to the preparation of the proposal document should be about understanding the customer’s perspective thoroughly. While their requirements may be written in the RFP they’ve issued, there may be nuances or details that will only come out through a more thorough analysis of the customer’s needs. 

Some of these details may be gathered in conversations that your sales team has with the prospect, particularly if they’ve been able to develop close relationships prior to the publication of the RFP. But other details may need to be gleaned from reading press releases or earnings statements, or understanding where the customer stands in their end market. These efforts may prove time consuming, and they are critical to get right.

Taking a developed competitive map and marrying it with the latest perspective on the customer will provide you the best chance of articulating smart and compelling Win Themes in your subsequent bid.

Download the Ultimate RFP Response Process Guide to learn how your team can win  proposals in less time.

Why Should My (Bid or Sales) Team Create This?

If you’re part of a larger organization–even if your Bid team or Sales team are small–you may be thinking that creating and maintaining an assessment of the competition and marketplace is actually someone else’s job. After all, you might have a corporate strategy team who is responsible for tracking stats and publishing reports. If you do, take advantage of their work by all means! But beware complacent thinking that this gives you enough information to perform your work effectively.

Here’s why it’s important that critical information is collected by your team:

  • Every group who is working with and influencing customers should have intimate knowledge of the various factors and inputs that your prospect might be considering when reviewing your proposal. Treat the work done by your corporate team like you would any other third party data source, digesting it and keeping it at your fingertips. 
  • You’re the team that’s in the market and talking to customers, so you’re in the best position to capture the most accurate information. Compile what you’re learning from trade shows, partner conversations, prospect meetings, and your other interactions as it happens.
  • Don’t be caught out not knowing a key market development. The last thing any team wants is to lose a bid based on an erroneous “fact” or misstep in a presentation that leaves the prospect questioning the overall authority of what you’ve presented because you’ve missed a detail, change, or advancement.

Having the most current knowledge at the ready will position your team and your business best for capturing the win.

Stay tuned for our next post on this topic, 3 Simple Steps for Beating Your Competition and Winning Your Next RFP Bid. This post will present steps and techniques that are easy to set up and straightforward for your team to follow — and can be fun, too.