If you need to write a winning proposal to close the sale, then the pre-RFP pursuit phase isn’t just about lead identification. The pre-RFP pursuit phase becomes about preparing to win the proposal.
People can’t achieve the goal if they don’t know what it is. If you have more than one, they need to be prioritized.
- Qualify the lead. Does it fulfill for the company’s lead qualification criteria?
- Discover what it will take to win. Can you articulate what it will take to win? How will the customer make their decision? What must the customer see in your proposal in order to conclude it is their best alternative?
- Develop an information advantage. What matters to the customer? What are their preferences? How should you interpret the things they say? What do you need to know to design your offering?
- Turn your information advantage into a competitive advantage. What are you going to do about it? What should you say in your proposal based on what you’ve learned? How should you present what you have to say?
- Influence the future RFP. If you are serious about winning, you can’t just be passive and wait for the RFP to see what’s in it. If you are serious about winning you should be helping the customer understand their needs and how to articulate them as RFP requirements. If you’re not trying to influence the RFP, you’re just waiting for someone else to.
To support this, your pre-RFP pursuit process should be built around:
- Discovery. What information should you seek? Consider building your pre-RFP pursuit process around questions instead of charts.
- Positioning. Articulating how you will position against the customer, opportunity, competitive environment, and other potential considerations.
- Guidance. People perform better when they have good guidance. The challenge is to deliver it in a form that doesn’t tie their hands, is accessible from where they happen to be, is useful when they are in the field as well as at their desk, and scales to the time available from start until RFP release. Guidance should cover what to discover, how to do it, and what to do about it.
- Development. Developing your offering design and validating it with the customer before RFP release is a huge advantage. This assumes you have a process for designing your offering and a way to discuss it with the customer. But even if you can’t validate it with the customer or even complete your design without the RFP, the more you document what you plan to propose and why, the better off you will be at RFP release.
If your pre-RFP pursuit process is built around lead identification and bid/no bid decisions, then even though leads are passing the decision-gate, you likely aren't doing a lot of the things needed to maximize your win probability.