• When Should We Respond to Request for Proposals (RFPs)?

    The RFP from a whale prospect lands in your in-box. What do you do next?

    Most salespeople get excited, tell their boss that all their hard work cosying up to this company’s middle management and procurement team has paid off. They’d spend a day or two reading through the tome that reminds them of War and Peace, written by an 8-year old lawyer. Then they’d get the team together to plan who was going to do what. Much resource would be thrown at meeting the unreasonable deadline set by the “prospect” … but not much actual thought.

    They wouldn’t ask some fundamentally important questions; questions to which answers are imperative to decide what we do next, because  NOT ALL RFPs ARE LEGITIMATE! In fact, most aren’t. Most are an attempt to get free consulting from vendors too scared, excited, lazy or stupid to check if the RFP is even real.

    Consider these questions…

    • How did we make the list for receiving this RFP?
    • How many RFPs were sent?
    • What do we know about the prospect’s history surrounding RFPs?
    • Do they have a preferred supplier list (PSL) and are we on it?
    • If not, do they always give the business to someone on the PSL?
    • If we decide to participate, what happens next?
    • What role, if any, will their incumbent supplier play?
    • Will the low bid be the one that wins?
    • What results is the prospect company hoping to achieve by implementing the contents of the RFP?
    • Why aren’t they doing it in-house?
    • Is the timescale realistic?
    • Do we understand what caused them to go to market with this RFP? DO we understand the different drivers and centres of dissatisfaction?
    • Do we have a sponsor, coach or advocate in the prospect company to whom we can submit a rough draft, have it critiqued to make sure we have identified their priorities and covered all the issues they consider most important?
    • Are they high enough in the company to be able to provide us with the answers we need or just the ones they are willing to give any vendor?
    • Should we involved our senior management?
    • Have we identified to whom the prospect’s decision-making committee already has allegiances by suing our personal networks, trawling through LinkedIn and the internet to see what connections they have to our competitors and the incumbent?
    • What is the likely cost of sale to participate in this bid, win or lose?
    • Is this even legitimate?
    • Can we win it?
    • Are there any conditions that we do not qualify against that will preclude us from winning this e.g not ISO9000 compliant, no sector experience and sector experience is a must have, we don’t have 3-years accounts, they want to use their T&Cs not ours, our non-negotiable payment terms are unacceptable to them?
    • Do we want to win it?
    • What opportunity cost will we incur if we plough time, money and resources into this bid and is there a better way to invest our scarce and valuable resources?
    • Is this RFP going to be profitable if we win it? By when?

    Once you have your questions clear in your mind, are you allowed to speak to someone, not in procurement or a technical buying capacity, at a high enough level to understand the business drivers behind this RFP invitation?

    Given that RFP responses are usually the second highest hidden cost in any selling organisation after wrong hires the killer question you need to answer for yourselves is:

    • What are our chances of winning it?
    • Should we participate in this RFP process?

    Take the emotion out of RFPs and never lift a finger until you have done your research and picked up the phone.

    A simple rule of thumb for management to eliminate wasted effort and falling into the free consulting trap is that selling the opportunity internally should be twice as hard as selling it to the prospect.

    Live by the principle that you should do less but better on purpose.

  • More freedom, not more prospects!

    Having sat through hours of counter-intuitive training, practised tools, techniques and processes time and again, one might expect someone newly-trained in Sandler to fly out of the blocks, closing everything in sight.

    Sometimes that happens. One client of mine was moving from account management to sales, worked with me for just a few weeks and was almost instantly lauded as their top salesperson. She is, however, more of the exception than the rule.

    So, what typically, is the effect of all that investment?

    Time and again it is the same message. Those that grasp the point of “Pain then Budget and Decision”  learn to disqualify prospects that could never hope to be a real client.  That means the effect is not an increase in the value of their pipeline, rather a significant decrease.

    The relief I hear from so many businesses that they can stop chasing after prospects!  We only want to be spending our time with clients, customers who want to and will pay us for what we offer. Why do we want to spend an extra minute with a prospect who does not want to or will not pay us for our product or service?

    Our role is to help both sides figure out, as quickly as possible, if they are not going to be right for us or not. That’s it. It’s obvious when put like that. But all our salesmanship is going in another direction; persuading through features and benefits. We think we should be building “pipeline”. In fact, we should only be talking to those who are going to buy.

    So the immediate effects of training with Sandler is increased freedom; feedom to choose our customers, freedom to spend more time with people who value what we have to offer, freedom from endless technical proposals. Does all that “freedom” end up in more clients and more profit? Most definitely.

    If you want more freedom from the tyranny of trying to close sales, maybe it would make sense to look at Sandler in a bit more detail!

    Paul Glynn

    Paul Glynn

    Paul’s experience spans over twenty years of selling, sales management and training. He has worked in the financial services sector including accountancy and has been responsible for the commercial success of sales departments at director level in advertising. His clients report up to 300% increase in turnover by working with him. He is dedicated to helping businesses grow through assessments, training, coaching and mentoring. Tel: 01784 390623 Mobile: 07866 518848

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  • Reflections on becoming 50

    So on the 4th of November I am 50. Seems like a time to reflect not so much on what I have done, good or bad but what I have learned. So, if your Facebook feed is a little empty perhaps you can allow me the self-indulgence of sharing my thoughts.

    I have probably learned more in the last 5 years, perhaps even the last two than all the rest put together. Learned that is about the fundamentals of the human animal that is us all.

    So in no particular order:-

    Listening: very few people can truly listen. When I say listen, I mean to be aware of every single tiny nuanced emotion that is triggered within you when the other person speaks. To be truly aware of our biases, our assumptions, our generalisations and our ability to distort, even subtly, what the other person is saying to suit ourselves, without judgement.

    That is listening. To be truly in the moment for the other person. Take that listening to another level and being able to see and feel how that other person sees and feels, even if what they say appears ludicrous or even insane to us, it is what they think. That person has a set of beliefs and biases that they may not even be aware of. It’s their model of the world. You can recognise it but don’t have to go along with it. However, it is them. I understand this may be called compassion. This is a new thing for me!

    Communicating: more of the time human beings are probably miscommunicating. If we can’t truly listen, if we let our beliefs cause judgements then we can’t communicate effectively. At a basic level this leads to disputes or misunderstandings between partners or on a global scale, leads to wars. Waring over religion is such an example. One set of brainwashing competing with another.

    We become the people we surround ourselves with: This is both positive and negative and probably quite a subtle and medium term effect. This has been a massive lesson for me in the last two years since I joined Glasgow Triathlon Club. I have not met a group of people so supportive, open minded and encouraging. No adventure is too mad or crazy. In no time at all this becomes infectious and you start to achieve more than you even imagined possible. You then share and support newer or less developed members.

    A fellow club member is also the coach of a woman’s Gaelic Football team. He has instilled a very simple but hugely powerful ethos in that team: be positive and have fun. In no time at all they have become the Scottish Champions, The British Champions, beaten the European Champions and will now play against the very best in Ireland. They love being surrounded by such positive people.

    Our body is amazing: If you give up on your body, it gives up on you but never lose hope, with a little bit of nurturing and patience it will repay you many times over. We often are in awe of the Olympians and para-Olympians but they are biologically no different from us. They have just put some time in. We don’t have to become super athletes but we all have an inner athlete which is bursting to come out. I was belted at school at P.E. I hated it, the teachers and sport in general but in the last year have participated and even won events.

    There are 80-year-olds who complete marathons and Ironman Triathlons, who ski, cycle and run. My better half was told by her GP she would need one or perhaps two knee transplants. She took up swimming, then cycling and now running. She no longer takes pain relief for her knees or struggles with bad knees. Give our bodies a chance and it repays with much better health, better sleep and a longer and higher quality of life.

    Our minds are amazing: For sure I am only on the early stages of this journey. Understanding where our motivation comes from or goes to. How our imagination works. What brings on depression and what improves it (exercise for me).

    Facebook offers us great lessons: some of the above thoughts have been triggered by seeing the posts of so many people. We learn that our friends who seem so “normal” can have very, very different views. Scottish Independence, Brexit, Religious views, even Rangers/Celtic fans re-enforce in me every day that there is no absolute. It’s just opinions and mine is as ridiculous to some people as theirs can be to me. I was a pretty black and white guy for a long time. The world is grey and ever changing. Reality is just an illusion created by our cultural brainwashing.

    Life is a series or stages of understanding: When you are a teenager you perhaps first become aware of what “childish” means. You have passed through “childish” and hence can look back. Then as you become a student you can look back at what being a “school kid” was. Same goes for your twenties, becoming employed, a parent etc. As we go through the various stages of life, up and down, we can look back and see what we learned and perhaps have some compassion for others in that “stage”.

    What excites me is the thought that I am currently just in a stage and at some point, I will pass through to another level of self-awareness. Who knows how many stages people go though. I think many are stuck in one level or have very low self-awareness. I was stuck in a level of materialism for a long time. I now care far less for possessions and more for my health, adventures and a few close people.

    If you got this far, well done. Here’s to another 50 years of learning and growing and of course our good health!

    Alan Mackie

    Alan Mackie

    Alan has been in various sales roles for 25 years and works with businesses struggling to grow revenue and profitability to the levels they wish. Often their sales people are using excuses to hide lack of prospecting or perhaps saying everything is down to price when really it’s their ability. Often the business doesn't have a successful sales culture.

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  • How Sales Professional are like Shrinks

    We don’t ordinarily think of sales as one of the “helping professions,” but maybe we should. People tell their problems to psychologists. They pour out their hearts to their local hairdresser/barber. But they tell their troubles to sales professionals, too, so we should develop our “helping profession” skills.

    I have often noticed, when a sales pitch is going well, how the conversation resembles what I understand a therapeutic session to be like. That is the way it should be, if the salesperson knows what he or she is doing.

    For one thing, there are times when-acting as a counsellor might-it is best to answer a question with a question. It’s even important to pause thoughtfully after a question has been asked, which isn’t easy for salespeople. Many are fast talkers, eager to make their sale as quickly as possible. That’s a mistake.

    It’s important, before answering a question, to know why it’s being asked. The only way to find out is to follow with a question of your own.

    Let’s say you’re selling an ad agency’s services to a restaurant chain, and the potential client asks how much experience you have with restaurants. Too many salespersons, without bothering to find out why the client wants to know, immediately answer by quoting the huge number of restaurant accounts the agency has handled.

    When they are done, the prospect says, “Well, I hope you aren’t planning to present me with recycled ideas.”

    Now the salesperson is cooked. If he had asked why the prospect was asking about his experience, he might have learned how important it is for the restaurant to be seen as unique.

    Answering questions with questions allows you to learn as much as possible about the prospect’s needs so that when you do respond with definitive answers, they are the right ones.

    There’s at least one other reason to take a therapeutic approach to sales calls. They create an atmosphere in which the prospect is likely to talk about the problems their business faces-that is, their pain.

    Once you understand their pain, you can explain how your product or service will remove it.

    Approach your sales calls this way, and you’ll make friends and sales.

    Blog Editor

    Blog Editor

    Lisette Howlett edits the Sandler UK blog. If you have any questions or would like to submit a blog please contact her. Tel: 020 7484 5556 Email: Lisette.howlett@sandler.com

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