By Tom Searcy
I’ve been working with a number of companies lately on big deals — we’re talking deals up to $100 million, here, with companies on both U.S. coasts, in the Midwest, and in the Southeast.
They’re in very different industries, and their customers are government, private, public and education groups. Diverse enough?
However, every one of these deals has had something very important in common: They all required some sort of RFP response as a part of the process. In each case I served as strategist, RFP response coach, and pitch doctor. There are a bunch of great things to share with you out of these experiences, and I will over time.
But today, I want to begin with talking about the “RFP Frame.” How do you frame your RFP response? I use the 4 Cs.
Honestly, most people start with responses they’ve already used for prior RFPs. Then they cut and paste and massage what they come up with and call it good. The problem with this method is that they-re thinking about the process of writing the response and what they want it to say, and not the process of reading the RFP and what the readers are looking for.
The 4 Cs attempt to fix that oversight by focusing on building the guidelines for the response in the terms of the reader. Here goes:
1. Competency: Can you clearly demonstrate in your response that your company can do the work? Not sexy stuff — not the big “a-ha” moments — just strong credentials?
2. Credibility: Is your company strong? In some contracting businesses, just being bonded by a credible firm is enough. In others, strong financials are necessary. Still others are looking for the strength of your partners, vendors and banks. The core issue is your company’s strength and longevity.
3. Customization: Can you fulfill this project in all of its specifications and nuances? We have rarely found a contract — whether it’s building a hospital, manufacturing plane landing gear, outfitting a major retailer or staffing a medical center — in which the buyer did not believe that their project was incredibly unique and challenging. This means you have to demonstrate that you understand all there is to understand about this project and are conversant in an intimate way with the specs and nuances in your RFP response.
4. Consistency: Do you have a story that hangs together? We work on the 10 percent of the answer that has the greatest leverage. Most of the answers to an RFP are “check-the-box” quality — if you can check the box, that’s good enough. Then there’s the 10 percent upon which the final decision matters. That 10 percent has to be consistently found throughout the response.
Because the initial process of RFP responses is about not being disqualified, and the second level is being chosen as a finalist for interview or presentation, you need to make certain that your responses to each question are accomplishing in a distinguishing way at least one of these 4 Cs.
The ultimate effects of President Obama’s economic stimulus plans have been lots of federal money flowing out into the economy. And the outcome of that are contracts. Because there will be regulatory oversight, there will be RFPs as a part of the process. If you want some of the money, start with these 4 Cs in framing the response.
Tom Searcy has established himself as the foremost expert in large account sales. As an author, speaker, consultant and founder of Hunt Big Sales, Tom has helped his clients generate business in excess of $5 billion. Leading four companies through tremendous growth to over $100 million (from less than $15 million), Tom has perfected the process for consistently landing large accounts, which he has documented in his books, Whale Hunting: How to Land Big Sales and Transform Your Company (co-authored by Barbara Weaver Smith) and RFPs Suck! How to Master the RFP System Once and for All to Win Big Business.
Originally published: Oct 13, 2011