‘Request for Proposal’ – these three words are soul destroying when your sales cycle involves personal interaction and creating a solution for a particular issue or problem.
RFP’s are supposed to be a tool by which a company can evaluate all vendors fairly – the same rules, the same criteria and the same pricing structure but that’s where the issue lies – you cannot evaluate value through a RFP process.
RFP’s are a race to the bottom – to ‘create’ some form of value in plain sight, companies strip out their margin in an attempt to shine and be counted – this often leads to the client selecting the lowest priced offering, doing away with any chance of identifying any further positive attributes that may mean that there is a slight cost increase. This value cannot be identified on a RFP form and its just not personable.
In these consumer led times, every company is trying to achieve the ‘Amazon’ model – where commodities are traded autonomously and without interaction with a shop front or a sales clerk – everything is automated but how do you know what’s best? Referrals, reviews and history – none of which are present on an RFP.
The typical RFP process is –
A company has a need. They send a standard RFP form to multiple vendors. Vendors return the form and ‘evaluate’ responses which usually means looking at the bottom line. Company selects the lowest price and the vendor gets to ‘win’ the work.
The problem with this scenario is that the company will often get an inferior product, inferior service and in the worst cases, both. Everyone loses.
The way I prefer to work (and we do when selecting suppliers at SAFi UK) is to meet with the vendors, understand the nuances of the service/product offered and ‘test’ the client on their reactivity, service and in some cases, test their products.
The personal and relational approach to selling is the only way of guaranteeing repeat business and earning the respect of your clients – at SAFi UK, all of our accounts have a dedicated sales manager who will personally be on hand to answer all queries, sales related enquiries and will be your representative when dealing with our other internal departments.
RFP’s are part of the culture within the demanding industries that SAFi work with – the work that we carry out in the technical assessments and meticulous selection of the valves adds the value that cannot be detailed on a form.
We are able to offer work on fluid mechanics, rheology and ensure the characteristics of the valve are suitable for the application – we are leaders in our field which means that when we select the valves for the application, you are getting expert advice first time – writers of an RFP will normally work in a ‘procurement’ or ‘sourcing’ team and will probably have very little knowledge of the products being offered – how can you trust that your project isn’t going to fail on that basis – its an expensive issue to have.