How to Win More RFP Business: For Consultants

Video Transcript

It’s Michael Zipursky from ConsultingSuccess.com. Welcome back to the Consulting Corner, where consultants learn how to consistently attract their ideal clients and significantly increase their fees.

A consultant recently asked me how they could win more RFP (Request for Proposal) business?

RFP-Business-Consultants

It’s a good question, however, my answer may not be the one you want to hear, which is: instead of trying to win more RFP business, you should actually try and win less.

You see, RFP business is really out of your control. You can do a lot of things to prepare, and if you’re an incumbent who has worked with the client or organization in question before, you do have a better chance of winning that business – but much of the RFP process is still out of your control. Why try and spend so much time?

So if you want to win more business, I’d simply suggest going after fewer RFPs.

Often RFPs take a lot of time – many pages to put together and review – and yet you don’t actually have control in the situation. You don’t have direct contact with the buyer – the actual decision maker.

RFPs are typically made up of panels, layers of bureaucracy and organizations. As a consultant, does it really make sense for you to spend time trying to wade through those layers of bureaucracy, to win RFP business? Or does it make sense for you to go direct to an actual decision maker to try and win their business?

The latter is a much more effective route to take when it comes to growing your business.

You may not even know this, but the other challenge is that often the organization that has put out to RFP is only looking for the lowest price bid. So while you might actually be better for an organization in terms of skill, experience and the ability to produce results, they might be mandated to go only with the lowest price bid.

You might spend all this time and energy to prepare for the RFP, and you might actually be the best fit for it – however, it doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win their business.

So if you want to win more business, I’d simply suggest going after fewer RFPs.

If you’re looking for a great book on winning RFP business, check out Tom Searcy’s RFPs Suck.

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  • Bill Quinn

    Thanks Micheal, that’s not what you hear from PTACs and SBDCs who promote RFPs to governmental agencies and their large government contracting partners. The process is layered with applications and the request for proposal may have as many as 90 plus pages that have to be reviewed and completed in order to submit a quote.

    • Bill – exactly, this is why I don’t recommend consultants take on RFPs. For some it can be a great source of business. However, unless you have direct access to a decision maker I think you can find better opportunities than going down the long RFP process.

  • Curt Kuiper

    I appreciate the insight offered in this video, Michael. However, the title is misleading. Your point is to not go after RFP business, not to win RFP business (as your title indicates). I’m guessing you were after a catchy title, but catchy must always preserve trust. Regardless, I agree with your point and will still tune in.

    • Curt – I can see that. For everyone that watch the video I think the point is clear. The purpose of the headline is to draw the reader/viewer in – so I hope it’s accomplished it’s goal by getting people to watch the video and gain value from it.

  • Andi Gabb

    My own rule is “If the RFP was a surprise, then for sure you won’t win except by dumb luck”, so in general I totally agree. The only exception to this is where you have been working with the client on the requirement prior to the RFP being issued and the client is compelled by policy to use an RFP process to buy. Then you are in a better position to judge your chances of success and can make an informed decision as to whether to respond or not.

    • Agreed Andi. It depends on the relationship and the specifics of the bid/process. It becomes a question of balancing the time it takes to go through the process and the possible payoff, with the elements of the process that are out of your control and how much progress you can make spending time directly with clients not in the RFP process – that will likely generate more business for you and faster.

  • Nevin Kamath

    Thanks for the helpful advice as always Michael.

    • My pleasure Nevin and thank you for your support. The comments and shares are always appreciated.