How to Prevent a Prospect Going Silent After Your Proposal
Don't let prospects go silent after responding to a Request for Proposal (RFP). In this Q&A we discuss strategies you can use to increase your chances of closing the deal.
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The idea of lobbing over a proposal, hoping that they review it and get back to you, is leaving a lot up to chance and it lowers your chance of being successful.
We spend all this time crafting a great response, a brilliant proposal, and then we don't hear back from the client. A few weeks to months later, they finally follow up and say:
"We've gone with another provider," or
"We've chosen another option," or even worse,
"We decided not to move forward with the project altogether."
So here's what you need to do to prevent this from happening.
1) Put a premium on your time: Make it clear to prospects that if they're going to engage with you, there has to be some give and take.
2) Qualify the deal: Make sure this a business you want to go after and that you can win. Outline a solution that understands: When are they going to make the decision? Who's going to be involved in making that decision? And what's the decision criteria they're going to use?
If you can, find out how many other people are competing, who they are, and what's important to your buyer when choosing a partner. To overcome pushback when asking about this information, talk to your contact in the organization and say, "I've found that I can better serve you when I'm able to engage with some people in the organization. I'd like to speak to the following individuals. Can you help me arrange those meetings?"
They may say no, but to the extent that you can penetrate and expand your footprint, you'll be more successful.
3) Preview your solution: Preview any solution that you're going to send over before you send the proposal. Your solution presentation should include your understanding of your buyer's situation and problem.
"Here's what I learned through all the research I did. Here's my proposed solution, and the components that are going to help you solve that problem. This is why we're different than some of the other options that may be out there," (of course, without badmouthing the competition).
"Here's some proof or some support for those claims that I'm making," which might be a reference, or a case study, or a referral, some data or metrics that you're providing to substantiate your solution.
This will allow you to get direct feedback before you send that proposal and ask the question, "Did I miss anything? "Do you see any gaps or concerns?" And it may be a harder question, but, "Hey, could you tell me how we compare currently with any other options you're considering? How would you stack us up or how would you rank us compared to the other options?"
That information will tell you if you're on track and if you have any gaps to close. If you've done that, send over that proposal.
4) Get their commitment: Before you send that proposal, make sure you're clear on when your buyer plans to make a decision and the timeline involved. Don't submit any proposal unless you've bookended that with a follow-up meeting to review it with key stakeholders.
You can say, "Hey, I'm happy to put the work in and invest. In fact, I'd like to share some insights with you about what I've found, but to do that, I'll have to book a meeting to review that with the key stakeholders that are going to be involved in making a decision. When can we do that? Can we put that on the calendar now?"
If you're able to set that up in advance, it'll put you more on par with the customer, and increase the chances that you'll get that final review meeting with the stakeholder. Also, it'll leave a lot less up to chance regarding when they'll make a final decision and who they will choose.
Finally, If you ever find yourself asking the question, "Well, I might as well respond because I don't have any other big proposals in the pipeline," I'd say, "Stop that right now." Go out and do more prospecting, do more research, or go back to your loyalty clients.
There are a lot of other high-value activities you can do than just responding to a blind RFP that likely isn't going to be accepted anyway. So, go out and do those other activities, or put the time into a proposal that you believe and know that you can win.
About Ray Makela
Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.