Can we make the RFP R.I.P.?
I was recently reading “Exceptional Selling” by Jeff Thull. The subtitle is “How the Best Connect and Win in High Stakes Sales”. Thull offers a bevy of great advice about how the old way of selling is out the door – especially when it comes to complex sales that involve many pieces.
As I was reading – I came across a chapter where he talked about why Requests for proposals (RFP’s) result in bad sales. He mentions how winning an RFP is akin to winning the lottery. He goes on to talk about how the process outlines a client’s wish list and a defined decision making process that dissuades creativity and finding the optimal solution. In a complex sale – the RFP process does everything to attempt to reduce solution providers to a commodity.
I couldn’t agree more. I can see where an RFP might make sense if you are buying toilet paper and there are 5 brands with similar features and it all comes down to price. However – when you are selling complex solutions to sophisticated buyers, the way you get to the optimal solution is to foster creativity and “out-of-the-box” thinking. When you get stuck into the RFP fifedom – usually with procurement – you end up with an invisible wall in front of you that does not allow for the interactivity that is so important to the process.
Thull goes so far to suggest that at times you need to walk away from RFP’s. He discusses the opportunity loss that needs to be considered amongst other things. Even when I have been on the winning side of the RFP – the next steps are much more cumbersome. Why? Because you really need to back up and get into creativity side of things. Many times – both parties find out a lot about what should have been knowon up front. I have seen many a partnerships go bad because of this.
At the end of the day, people buy from people and fostering deep understanding results in a better outcome for all sides. I am not sure the RFP is going to be laid to rest anytime soon, but it wouldn’t bother me.