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Winning the RFP business: a case study

Submitted by on Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Years ago I did a Buying Facilitation Method® program for a now-defunct group at KPMG. Before working with this team, they were using 2-4 people, spending between $500,000 and $1,000,000, and spending weeks creating large, glorious presentations to woo and wow the prospects as part of their proposal responses. They won 20% of the business.

That means, they wasted 80% of their time (and either had to hire more people to make up the slack, or not have enough consultants to deliver and close real business).

How could they know, before spending time and effort, which of the proposals were in the winning 20%? Or even expand that percentage to, say, 40%?

The sales model does not help with this, as it assumes that if gather the right data and ‘understand’ the problem, you can give great data and service to whomever shows up as a prospect and win the business. But that is obviously false: the sales model fails 93% of the time in conventional selling, 99% of the time when using marketing automation, or 80% of the time when there are only a few vendors receiving the RFP – more than 80% when there are many vendors (proposals of lesser-known companies win about 10% of their proposals).

When my client – let’s call him Dave – told me he and a few others were working ’round the clock on a proposal after receiving an RFP from a large airplane manufacturer who had historically used the now-defunct Arthur Anderson, I asked him why the prospect wasn’t going to use AA again for this job? He had no answer, but he called them:

DAVE: Why aren’t you using AA for this job?
AIRPLANE COMPANY: We are. We just needed a second bid.

Obviously, this was not going to be KPMG’s business. So instead of writing a proposal, we carefully went over the RFP and discovered all of the assumptions within, that weren’t being addressed as part of the RFP, recognized the change management issues they would have with the implementation, and realized the buy-in issues many of the departments were going to experience as they faced massive change and disruption once the project was underway.

We put together a list of Facilitative Questions on a couple of pages, such as:

  • How will you know when you have the adequate amount of, and appropriate, buy-in before you begin, to diminish any disruption as you move toward implementation?
  • What would you need to do, prior to choosing a vendor, to know if one vendor over another can build an implementation to avoid disruption entirely?

Instead of sending off a proposal, we sent the FQs. Of course, AA won the business. But 6 weeks in to the project, they fired AA and called KPMG to come and do the work. Why?

When we saw your questions, we realized we had not considered the implications of bringing in this type of change. When AA was not addressing these issues, and moving ahead, we realized we would potentially have a disaster on our hands as many of our folks weren’t buying-in and we had not properly managed the change. We would like you to take over, and start with the change management issues before you move ahead with the work.

Sales folks assume that buyers merely need info about a solution on your RFP. But they are using your proposal to gather the data they need to manage the change. Instead of responding merely at the solution level, make sure your RFPs address the change implementation problems your solution will incur. Who knows: you might not even need that proposal – especially if you use Buying Facilitation™ on them before you get the RFP and they know how to choose you over the competition because you’ve used Facilitative Questions on them throughout your sales cycle.

Because if a buyer knows exactly how to choose one vendor over another, or one vendor has helped them (before choosing a solution) consider solutions for all of the internal change issues that must be addressed as the solution is implemented, they would not need an RFP.


Listen to, and read about, change management solutions using decision facilitation on www.facilitatingbuyin.com.

Learn about how to help buyers think about the implications of what a change issues a solution will create. Read Dirty Little Secrets: why buyers can’t buy and sellers can’t sell and what you can do about it.


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