If you have responsibility for writing your company’s tenders and proposals, then you’ll know that the process includes having conversations with the prospective client well in advance of the Request for Tender (RFT) or Request for Proposal (RFP) being issued.
While attending sales meetings may not be part of your role, the information your sales person or team uncovers at meetings with your prospective clients is fundamental for the value proposition and content in your tender or proposal response. You need to know what to write in tenders and proposals, not just how to write, and your sales team can give you a big lead in this regard.
Every three years rogenSi conducts global research into “What it Takes to Win Business” based on the perspectives of 178 global Buyers and Sales Professionals from a range of industry sectors.
For companies that are writing tenders and proposals to win new business, rogenSi’s last findings, from 2015, are important. Reported in “Discipline, Courage & Curiosity”, the findings put a new perspective on how to engage with buyers who have issued an RFT or RFP.
The research shows a shift in buyer expectations and suggests the need for increased discipline in sales meetings that happen before the RFT or RFP is issued. rogenSi found that buyers are asking sales people to do more, listen more, find out more and be more disciplined in their approach. They expect sales professionals to be genuinely curious about their business and to be more courageous by challenging them with knowledge relevant to them.
rogenSi found that reasons for customers to buy are:
Credibility – 25%
Subject knowledge – 20%
Listening skills – 19%
Communicate value – 17%
Rapport – 7%
The reasons they don’t buy are:
Poor listening- 25%
Lack of subject matter knowledge – 23%
Poor preparation – 16%
Lack of responsiveness – 36%
As rogenSi points out, two decades ago sales was all about pushing a product or service. Ten years ago, it was all about selling solutions. Today sales is about insights. Understanding the prospect’s business, industry, challenges, and where all this is leading over the next few years is the basis for insight selling. Yet insights only become so if they are relevant to the prospect. And, generally, they relate to increasing revenue, reducing costs, optimising assets or resources, improving productivity, building a brand or improving reputation.
Research by computer giant HP (Hewlett-Packard) backs this up. HP found the following to be the most important 10 factors influencing buying decisions:
Price – 16%
Understanding of client needs / alignment of proposal or tender with client’s needs – 23%
Contract negotiations – 8%
Commercial and contract terms – 7%
Presentation – 10%
Implementation risk – 11%
Solution performance – 9%
In effect, proposals and tenders that demonstrate an understanding of the prospect’s needs and align that proposal or tender to those needs have a much greater opportunity for success.
So, as always, it comes down to understanding the prospect’s needs. Buyers are looking for conversations. They don’t want to be asked, ‘what’s keeping you up at night?’. They expect sales people to know in advance what their concerns are. This means research, so when your sales team meets with the prospect, they can share a little of what they know.
Get this right, and your company’s credibility with the prospect will go up. And, if you do the right thing and let them do most of the talking and listen carefully your sales team will learn a lot. All of which, can be read back into your tender or proposal.
rogenSi defines levels of listening as:
Empathy: listening for feelings and emotions
Active listening hasn’t gone out of fashion; it’s the main way to build trust. rogenSi’s research shows that 75% of the sales process that a sales person can control relate to trust.
Therefore, rogenSi’s advice is to view every conversation as an opportunity to learn something:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare for conversations, not diagnostic interviews
- Show respect for the prospect by staying engaged
- Don’t interrupt with ‘yep’, ‘yes’
- Be conscious of the expectation bias – this is when we anticipate what the speaker is going to say next and start preparing our response before they have finished speaking. In order words, we are not actually listening to their words but thinking about our own.
It’s when you understand what your prospect needs, then you can propose your solution and the outcomes for the prospect in your tender or proposal. Sound obvious? Perhaps, but it’s clear from rogenSi’s and HP’s research that many companies are not doing this. So if yours does, then you’ll be ahead of the pack.