request for a proposal RFPs ruin your business

RFPs Can Ruin Your Business Without You Even Realizing It

During a recent Brand Intensive Workshop with an established flooring installation company, we uncovered a serious problem with their sales team – that I’ve seen in a worrying amount of other companies before and since.

The problem? They were wasting all their selling hours filling in endless RFPs.

Hold up, RFPs are the lifeblood of our industry. Right?

A request for proposal (RFP) lands in your inbox, matching what your company has to offer – and with a nice budget to boot.

Your immediate reaction is to get to work and submit a proposal as soon as possible and get that job.

But how effective are RFPs for creating guaranteed cash flow?

RFPs are time-suckers, there’s no doubt about that. 

How much time is your sales team putting into submitting the average RFP?

What about your current customers? The ones who have already invested their time and money in choosing your company over your competitors?

As one of the sales team in the recent workshop succinctly put it: “Work falls in our lap when we go visit customers, but we never have time.”

There are two major red flags with this:

1 – If you’re ignoring easy sales, you’re leaving cash on the table.

2 – You’ll lose those ready-and-willing customers to a competitor that takes the time to check in with them.

Not having the time to take care of the customers you already have could be damaging your business and your brand’s reputation.

It’s a delicate balance between attracting new business (hello RFPs and marketing campaigns) and keeping old clients happy.

How to avoid wasting time on RFPs that don’t go anywhere

Evaluate the return on time between RFPs vs. time in the field.

Do you have an active tracking system to figure out the footprint of winning projects and how they came in?

Think about it, do you know what your close rate is on RFPs?

Know your numbers and share them with your team, so they know where to focus their time. Do you know what your most profitable products/services are? What are your loss leaders that get you in the door? What projects do you want more of?

It’s easy to get swept away with the day-to-day workload and lose focus on your current relationships and existing clients. Keep in mind it’s always easier to sell to the converted than persuade someone new to trust you and hand over their hard-earned cash.

How to streamline the RFP process

First up, track how long your RFP submissions take and outline the process your sales team follows.

Next, figure out what you can delegate.

Yes, I know there’s a lot of money at stake – but your senior staff really don’t need to do the full proposal themselves.

Our recent workshop company figured out they can get their senior sales staff to do the first 10% of the RFP, get someone else on the team to do the next 80%, and the senior staff comes back to the project to finalize the last 10%.

The result? Senior sales staff can spend those saved hours visiting/speaking to current customers and bringing in sales that way.

Be selective when responding to RFPs

Just like you shouldn’t waste hours of your time running after clients who are a bad fit for your services/company values, you shouldn’t waste time going after RFPs that are a bad fit either.

Do your research on the company (or individual) who sent the RFP.

Are they serious about this project?

Are they looking to plan next year’s budget without actually going ahead?

Do they want the experts (you!), or are they just looking for the cheapest bid?

Figure out whether they will be worth your time. Being selective with the RFPs you apply for puts less stress on your team and helps you manage that RFP/client outreach balance.

Are you tired of being judged solely on your price? It’s time to get recognized as the go-to expert in your area.

Tracy O’Shaughnessy Founder / Lead Brand Strategist of Branding & Beyond

Tracy and her team help B2B firms in the construction industry and professional services look and sound credible online and off.

She has been in the industry since the early '90s and is tired of great companies being treated as commodities and competing on price because they don't look and sound as credible as they really are.

You can find Tracy on Linkedin and here on this blog.