It’s easy to become a proposal factory when you sell consultancy.
And Invitation to Tenders (ITT) and Requests for Proposals (RFP) take you down this route. You’ll know you’re on the production line when you write through the night, send out for pizza, and submit your proposal last minute through some online portal.
Producing these proposals is a soul destroying, ineffective way to sell. Particularly when you consider these factors:
- Selling consultancy using this commodity approach devalues your intellectual horsepower.
- Clients tend to re-buy from incumbents and people they already know.
- The ITT process purposefully makes key stakeholders inaccessible.
Clients are going to buy from people they know, like and trust.
- ITT responses are not the best place to position your work, which is marketing. Or to describe your approach to the issues, do that face-to-face with the decision maker.
- Proposals should document agreement on the outcome of the project and value of your work. They won’t do that unless you’ve had that face-to-face conversation.
In reality ITTs are written to please committee members.
- ITTs are generally a mish-mash of all sorts of administrivia (environmental policies, pricing tables etc) that shroud the requirements.
- Whatever the client says they are primarily used to get a competitive price and check compliance. And jumping through the compliance, procurement rules and process requirements can be a lot of work.
- And, where requirements are generally process driven, clients are almost certainly buying resources for a job and have already decided on the approach they want to take (usually with the incumbent).
Shockingly the return on investment and suitable investment budget probably haven’t been considered.
- Often ITTs contain a list of requirements, with no reference to detailed or meaningful business objectives, outcome measures, or value assessments.
- There are lots of other hopeful vendors. Over 40 responses for a large project isn’t uncommon. [How long was your response? Now imagine sorting through 40 of those looking for ‘the one’.]
Now, if you are working in a proposal factory, working late into the night, eating too much pizza and submitting last minute proposals – ask yourself why? You know that the odds are against you. Yet you’ll place the bet anyway. And you know you’ll be playing telephone tag (again) trying to find out why your proposal disappeared into a black hole. And then have to jump through more loops if you are shortlisted.
There is another way.
You don’t have to work in an ITT factory to win. Join the union. There are far better ways to invest your time. Learn how to sell effectively and work with real decision makers.
And, if you must take part, learn how to play the game so you have a major advantage.
The bottom line
Get real: ITTs are commodity buying tools used for gathering ideas and filtering suppliers.
Get prepared: Relationships before proposal writing. Meet decision makers and interview they directly about their project.
Get savvy: Proposals don’t sell. They confirm agreements about outcomes, measures and value. They add approach and price.
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