Click on the icons below to subscribe.
Guest: Anne McNamara, co-founder and CEO of Shine Bid Services, a firm that develops bidding strategies to help companies win more contracts. Companies have used these strategies to win more than $10 billion in contracts. Anne recently won the Stevie Award, which is an international award for advertising, business services, marketing, and public relations.
Episode in a Tweet: Here are the key steps to building a winning RFP strategy and turbocharging your growth rate.
Quick Background: Anne is in the business of helping businesses boost their revenue by winning RFPs. And she’s very good at it: the proposals her team put together win bids for clients at an incredible 80% success rate.
On today’s show, Anne takes us inside her war room and shares the three-step process her team works through when strategizing winning bids. Whatever size RFP you have your sights on, Anne’s process can help you fine-tune your bid and win some BIG new business.
Transcript: Download the full transcript here.
Key Insights on Winning RFPs
1. Gather intelligence early.
If your company has an RFP in hand and you’re just now starting to figure out how to win the contract, you’ve already lost.
“Odds are reduced to about 25%,” Anne says. “It’s too late really. You need to have started way before the RFP. The RFP is really just an admin process to do with the transaction. This is the biggest mistake that most companies make. They start to mobilize once there’s a tangible RPF in their hand.”
Anne recommends that you identify a potential contract as early as possible, and ask yourself some key questions to get a jump on strategy:
- Why has this RFP come up?
- Who’s driving this RFP?
- Why is the driver using an RFP?
- Is this RFP a rebate?
- Is there an existing incumbent?
- Who’s your competition?
2. Zero in on a “win strategy.”
Once you have your intelligence gathered, add to it with some practical info. Get your sales team out in the field doing additional research. If you’re behind on any developments in your business space that might help you craft a winning bid, take a trip to CEO island – isolate yourself from the daily grind, and do your research. A good CEO might be able to minimize this step – he or she is always learning, and knows the business, the opportunities, and the competition inside and out.
With all this info in hand, start to outline a “win strategy.” “You take your intelligence and you really look at the drivers,” she says. “You start with the drivers of the procurers, the buyers, and you really start to craft an ideal offer. In some cases, that might be price. In other cases, it might be a value-add offered in the service. It could be a really good creative idea. It could be about increasing the speed of what you’re offering. It could be fast mobilization or it could be location.”
Anne warns, “If the strategy isn’t appealing to one of the pinpoints coming from the procurer or one of the aspirations of the procurer, you’re reducing your odds.”
3. Develop and/or innovate as appropriate.
A good business has a distinct brand and cultural identity that’s set top-down by the CEO’s vision. A good RFP bid should be just as distinct, but in a way that also positions your company to win. Maybe you try to sell the procurer on a BIG idea or in-house innovation you’ve been cooking up. Maybe you have some outside-the-box thinking on how to tackle a problem from a unique angle. Or maybe you make such a compelling case for your services or products that picking your bid is a no-brainer.
Just don’t lose sight of your objective: winning THIS particular bid, on its terms. You’re not out to prove how smart and clever you are. You’re out to win.
That circles back to your intelligence-gathering, and knowing how to make sure your bid appeals to the procurer.
For example, when bidding for a major defense contract, Anne’s intelligence revealed that the key to winning wasn’t dazzling the procurers with innovation, but an emphasis on rock-solid compliance that would appeal to military minds. Anne and her clients decided to go all-in on compliance, rather than innovation. And the strategy worked. They beat out more innovative bids by selling the procurers on their ability to provide what was most important to them, and by committing their bid to that most important thing. To that procurer, a focus on compliance was more unique than being unique.
“Once you, your firm, and your client agree on, ‘This is what we think our winning strategy is going to be, so we’re going to bet the farm on this idea,’ then that’s what you move through,” Anne says. “If you don’t bet the farm, then you have a vanilla bid that is a little bit of smorgasbord of everything and the client doesn’t know what it is you’re offering. You’re just offering stuff.”
And if that strategy scares you a little? Good. “If you don’t come out of a win strategy workshop feeling a little bit sick, a little bit scared, then you probably have a vanilla strategy,” Anne says.
1. Know what you do and don’t know. Gather your intel early, and supplement it with CEO-level knowledge of the whole business space. Fill in any gaps quickly.
2. Sell what the procurer is buying. Outside-the-box thinking is great … if that’s what’s going to win the bid.
3. Commit. Once you’ve settled on a winning strategy, go all-in. Scared? Good, that means you’ve avoided vanilla thinking.