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Best Practices for Handling an RFP

February 26, 2018

I asked my colleague Lisa Rehurek, a leading authority in RFP success to add her comments to this blog.

Has this happened to you?

Some large potential client calls you up and asks for your company to make a company presentation. You spend hours putting together a presentation, then you fly to the prospect taking some top executives with you.

After the presentation you are asked to participate in an RFP (Request for Proposal), which would bring in $2,000,000 in revenue.

Because this was an unusually large request from a reputable company, your whole team spends the better part of two weeks trying to put together the proposal.

The result: Thank you very much for your time, but we decided to go with the competitor.


Part of our jobs as Sales Managers and Sales Coaches is to make sure that the company does not waste time and resources on long shot opportunities. In some cases, even with large potentials it is not worth the time and effort of our people if there is no true basis for doing business.

The first mistake was giving a presentation without being very specific as far as what attracted your prospect’s interest and understanding their overall objective. Never give a presentation if you do not know what is important to the prospect. Once you know that, then focus your whole presentation around it. The prospect is only mildly interested in all the other things your company does, and the first presentation is not the time to inundate them with your entire series of offerings.

Some questions you should ask of your prospect include:

1. Other than price, what criteria is important to the prospect?
2. Has there been an issue with the previous supplier? Is there a previous supplier?
3. Why are you going out to bid?
4. What is your biggest challenge when it comes to…. {whatever you are providing a solution for}
5. What additional information do you need from the prospect to make sure that they are comparing apples to apples?
6. Is your timeline the same as theirs? Do they want the project finished within a specific time?
7. Are they willing to take suggestions to their RFP, which may reduce costs, or improve the project overall?
8. Will you be allowed to present the RFP face to face, and ask some of these questions?

The second mistake was responding to the RFP without first asking some of the following questions internally:

• Why is this prospect important to us?
• Do we have the resources to bid on this and to do the contract work?
• How does this client fit into our overall business development strategy?

Creating assessment criteria for opportunities like this is important when you start looking at RFP opportunities, because the time and expense associated with bidding can be intense. You want to make sure you’re bidding for the right reasons, aligned with your internal strategy.

If you feel that you must bid and that this is a door opener, do it intelligently. If a prospect is not willing to let you ask these questions, could that be a sign that they truly aren’t interested in choosing the best vendor? You must also agree on a basis for doing business. The buyers’ job is to make you a commodity. Yours is to show them your competitive edge. Sell the value of doing business with the company and yourself beyond just the product or service that you offer.

In some cases, they are only sending out these RFP’s to compare to their present vendor. With such a large bid, trust and competence is more important than price to the buyers. They may say price is most important, but without the trust and competence would you put your job on the line for a better price?

Give us your situation and thoughts and let’s see if we can help you do a better job of winning the bid. You can contact Lisa directly at 

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