Mining for RFP Gold

The Treasure Trove of Client Intelligence Within Your Grasp

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As a proposal professional, you are sitting on a gold mine of information, filled with precious nuggets. With a bit of digging, you might even unearth the mother lode (i.e., the secret to winning a lot more business for your organization). Let’s take a peek at the riches within your grasp.

To begin, let’s subscribe to this premise: To sell anything, you need to thoroughly understand your customer. You need to know their wants and needs, aspirations, frustrations, hot buttons and turn offs. Where can you excavate to extract such valuable information?

Win and Loss Data Analysis

Particularly if you maintain a CRM tool such as Salesforce, delve into your win and loss data. In what market segments and demographics are you winning? Losing? What is your new business vs. retention win rate? Are you chasing any business now that you’re unlikely to win? If so, perhaps a better gate (bid/no-bid) process could be instituted so you focus more of your proposal team’s time on proposals with an anticipated higher win rate.

Remember, it costs time and money to strategize, write, produce and submit proposals. The process itself can consume the time of leaders, proposal writers, sales executives, account managers, subject-matter experts, underwriters and more. An RFP must be “worthy” of this time and attention — i.e., competitively viable or have other justification for its pursuit — to warrant the consumption of these resources. Additionally, spending substantial effort on less-likely-to-win opportunities may result in more lucrative and viable RFPs failing to get the priority treatment they merit.

Post-proposal Feedback

Are you asking your prospect or customer and the consultant that represents them why you won or lost their business? If not, you should. Consider sending them a post-proposal survey or following up with a meeting or phone conversation. You’ll never know unless you ask, and if your bid was lost, obtaining this feedback might allow you to improve your offering and proposal the next time you’re invited to bid on this business.

Sales/Account Management Feedback

Interview your sales and account management staff. Why do they think a particular opportunity was won or lost? What adjustments do they recommend be made to your organization’s solutions, strategy and proposal to make them more attractive to prospects in the next sales cycle?

RFP Scoring Criteria

Of the RFPs your company receives, one-third or more may include weighted scoring criteria in the RFP instructions. How well your responses speak to the noted criteria will determine your ability to compete against other vendors.

An examination of the scoring criteria compared to your win/loss results will provide greater insight into why your bid was successful or not. Did you have the solutions they were requesting and listed as important in their scoring criteria? Look back at your proposal. How well did you describe those critical elements? Were your responses powerful and compelling?

Also, compare the stated scoring criteria with what you unearth through your post-proposal survey or conversations. Where did you score a bullseye? Where did you miss the mark? What has to improve to win or retain this business?

Proposal Response Gap Analysis

In the proposal you submitted, what did you say “no” to? Is there a way you could turn that “no” into a “yes” in your next proposal? Alternatively, the next time around, could you mitigate that “no” by explaining that your solution, while perhaps slightly different from what the client requested, offers other attractive advantages? Or could you say that the product or service they desire is slated for release in the near future?

We All Want to Win

There’s no question that a proposal loss is discouraging. However, that doesn’t mean a loss is without value.

You might remember the college fundraising ad slogan that declared: “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Well, a loss is a terrible thing to waste, too. It can teach you a lot about how well your organization’s capabilities are being perceived in the marketplace, where you hold a competitive edge, how you can better hone your responses to prospects in the future and much more.

Overall, there is tremendous value in gathering and analyzing data and information regarding what business you are winning or losing; what adjustments in strategy, solutions and proposals may generate a better result; identifying your “sweet spot” or corners of the market where you are particularly successful; and making wise gate decisions that focus your team’s energies on opportunities where you can be competitive. In the end, this will allow you to create deeper, more productive and enduring relationships with clients and prospects.

Whether bid opportunities are won or lost, each offers a wealth of client intelligence that can lay the groundwork for future business growth. All you have to do is start digging!


Diane Hallock, CF APMP, serves as director of proposals and client intelligence for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. She brings over 38 years of experience in proposal management, marketing and communications to her work.

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