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Surprises are great! That is unless the surprise is an RFP from a current customer that you didn’t know would be coming. Sure, it’s common for customers to have bidding requirements after a certain number of years with a vendor. It should not be common, however, for those RFPs to come out of the blue and reach your proposal desk with no advanced notice and no reason other than “they said they had to go to RFP.”
The following are 5 tactics that you – as a proposal professional and in coordination with account teams – can use to stay ahead of renewals to avoid these types of unwelcome surprises:
1. Review the Data
Like so many of us on a daily basis, account teams are busy addressing the most immediate issues and cannot always get ahead of the game to identify all of their renewing customers. As a proposal professional, it is just as important to you as it is to them to know when a renewal is coming. You can work with these teams to get into a cadence of reviewing any accounts coming up for renewal early – at least 6 to 12 months in advance. The account teams can identify those that could be at risk of leaving or going to bid and you can identify any trends you are seeing in industries that are going to bid more or less.
2. Reflect on Your Customer Partnership
Does a renewing customer have unresolved issues with your solution/product? Has the customer been making comments about needing something your solution/product cannot offer? Have you not heard from the customer in a long time? These are just a few of the red flags that can signify a customer is planning to scope out the market and take the business to bid. Identifying these early (again, 6-12 months in advance) and having a conversation with the customer can provide vital information for how you move forward. As a proposal professional, you can support your account teams with content and competitive insights to address any issues.
3. Be Proactive
Ideally, a renewing customer is open to receiving a proactive, unsolicited proposal to potentially avoid an RFP altogether. This is your chance to step outside the everyday-RFP-content-and-responses box and build a customized proposal that closes the deal before any other vendors are sought. Use this opportunity to outline how your solution/product has helped the customer solve specific problems and how you plan to continue adding value to the relationship. If there are unresolved issues with the customer, this is an opportunity to address those and provide solutions for a stronger partnership.
4. Offer an RFP Template
Of course, there are times when a customer is required by law or internal regulations to go to RFP after a period of time. If you can provide your own templated RFP for these cases, you will not only have the content prepared quickly, but you have an opportunity to set your solution or product apart from your competition.
5. Start Your Response Early
If you do, in fact, find that an RFP is unavoidable, start your RFP response early. Start with your proactive custom proposal and build your full response out as you learn more about new requirements. The earlier you can build your win themes, your story, your graphics, the more robust your submission will be. For the most part, gone are the days of RFPs with long lead times after release during which you can write, revise, write, revise multiple times. Buyers now want concise, responsive and compliant proposals quickly. When you are the incumbent with information about a pending RFP, start on that response as soon as you know one will be coming.
While proposal professionals are not usually attached to accounts to know when a customer is up for renewal, your partnership with the account teams can benefit everyone. When you help to guide a process for planning ahead, analyzing data and building options, you save the surprises for parties and other more cheerful occasions.
About the Author
Gina Kutsch, CP APMP, is senior director, proposal management for OnSolve, which provides leading critical event management solutions worldwide. Gina is Shipley Certified and has been directing proposal development efforts for more than a decade, focusing on leadership and process innovations.