- Teaches service providers how to win in competition and retain and expand committed client relationships using the Third Level Selling and Services principles.
- Clients by sector: real estate - Eastdil, JLL, Colliers, CBRE, Avison Young; financial services - Morgan Stanley, GE Capital, Wells Fargo; professional services firms - Baker Tilly, Slalom Consulting, ROI Communications.
- All 7 Best Practices
- Pre-Call Discovery Process
- One-on-One Call with Expert
- Session Summary Report
- Post-Session Engagement
Winning in Competition: Strategies for RFPs and Bake-Offs
- Client decision funnel
- Clients tend to follow a predictable process and motivations when choosing among service providers. The best way to win if you decide to respond to an RFP (request for proposal), is to make sure you understand the motivation and process driving the client's selection decision. The more you know about why and how service providers are chosen over others, the easier it will be to align your tactics to win.
The formal RFP selection process is like a funnel with three phases, where criteria are used first to increase choice and then to eliminate alternatives until the final selection is made. The three phases of the selection process are the search, screening, and selection phases. Each phase is based on decision criteria that become increasingly selective and subjective. The number of candidates is eventually narrowed down to a single winning service provider.
- Search Phase: "All The Usual Suspects." Decision criteria during the search phase are inclusive and designed to gather as many alternatives as necessary to assure (and demonstrate) a good decision. Inclusion is based on the client's awareness of, and access to, firms with relevant capabilities.
- Screening Phase: Who Will Be Voted Off The Island? The search phase frequently uncovers too many choices to be individually evaluated. The client's objective in the screening phase is to reduce the group to a manageable "short list" for closer evaluation. Standards for comparing similar characteristics are set, and these criteria are used to eliminate all but the few "short list" competitors who most closely align to decision criteria.To avoid being "voted off the island" during the screening phase, determine the decision criteria, build preferences that fit your strengths, and position your capabilities to those criteria. For each criterion you must be able to clearly articulate how you are different and why that is important to this client, making it difficult for competitors to match up. Then be prepared to prove it with success metrics and referrals.
- Selection Phase: "First Among Equals." The "short-listed" candidates are invited to meet the decision makers and present their cases. Anyone who has made it this far is well-qualified, so decision criteria expand beyond capabilities to the unique rational and emotional fit of one provider over the rest. The winner in the selection phase will be chosen based on emotional preference value: subjective and non-verbal decision criteria that include comfort (charisma and familiarity), confidence (in the service provider’s understanding of the buyer’s needs and situation), and commitment (the service provider’s demonstrated loyalty to, and enthusiasm for, the client and the project). In a word, trust.
- Build emotional preference by focusing on what is different about this prospective client.
- To build trust, engage the client personally. Instead of telling them what you are going to do, give a preview of what a working relationship with you feels like. Actually start the engagement. This gives both you and the client a head start.
In summary, market awareness and capabilities get you invited, rational differentiation keeps you in the game, but it is emotional differentiation that gets you selected:
- Throughout the search phase, you can use your capabilities and expertise to build credibility and get invited.
- To survive the screening phase, you will need to determine and rationally align your proposal to the service buyer's decision criteria.
- To win the selection phase, make as much personal contact as possible to demonstrate your understanding of the potential client and commitment to the project. Show them that you would make a good partner.
- Client differentiation
- Vendors tend to differentiate themselves based on their own capabilities, what they feel they have to offer to clients. Elite providers, however, differentiate on clients. This means building a personal relationship, understanding the strategic threats the client faces, and aligning recommendations to fit the unique situation, project and preferences of the client.
- RFP - Request for Proposal
A request for proposal (RFP) is a solicitation made often through a bidding process, by an agency or company interested in procurement of acommodity, service or valuable asset, to potential suppliers to submit business proposals. It is submitted early in the procurement cycle, either at the preliminary study, or procurement stage.
The RFP presents preliminary requirements for the commodity or service, and may dictate to varying degrees the exact structure and format of the supplier's response. Effective RFPs typically reflect the strategy and short/long-term business objectives, providing detailed insight upon which suppliers will be able to offer a matching perspective.
- Strategic partnering
- Many vendors claim to be strategic partners with their client, but a genuine strategic partner has a personal as well as professional relationship with their client. Strategic partners then go deeper than this: They align to the specific project the client faces; they discover and align around the preferences of decision makers in the client's organization; and they align around the complex, multifaceted processes of their client.
- The generalist trap
Service providers too often define themselves as broadly as possible in order to get invited to more competitions. The good news is that generalists will be invited to more bake-offs. The bad news is that they will lose more as well because clients tend to pick dominant specialists over generalists. Service providers tend to broaden their message when their markets go through tough times. But when markets are down, clients become even more selective. By trying to be everything to everybody, vendors become nothing special to anyone. Such vendors have fallen into the generalist trap.
- Three levels of vendors: capable, preferred, partner
- As clients move through their decision-making process, they first cast a wide net for capable vendors. Their first objective is to get more leverage and political coverage. The next thing they will do is screen out that group to only the preferred providers. These are the vendors that are clearly better than the rest. They next try to move from that short list of preferred providers to the chosen one. Either one of the three top providers on the list will establish clear preference or else the three will compete on price.