Are you spinning your wheels?

Image courtesy of Off_FoCus_Don’s photostream

Picture this. A $1,000,000 Request for Proposal (RFP) lands on your desk from a company you’ve never worked with and a contact you don’t know from Adam. You flip through the pages and it isn’t long before the excitement of holding a stack of paper potentially worth seven-figures gets to be too much. You decide to put everything else on hold to tackle this monster that, if done right, could take every bit of two weeks to complete.

What’s wrong with this picture? For starters, ask yourself this: When was the last time you forked over $1,000,000 to someone you didn’t know?

RFP or not, the sales process is time consuming, particularly for large accounts. Trust and strong relationships don’t develop overnight, and the chances that John Doe down the street is going to feel comfortable handing over his national apparel program to a supplier he’s never placed a single order with are slim to none.

So, how do you avoid the trap of wasting precious time and resources on opportunities that are anything but? There are a few simple questions you can ask yourself that will help determine your chances for success in any given sales situation:

•    Is the client sharing necessary information?
When you ask questions, do they come back with solid answers so you can propose the best solution, or do they blow you off by either not responding or being vague? If they’re truly interested in a partnership, they’ll want you to know what you need to know to help them build a successful program.

•    What is their relationship with their existing vendor?
Is the client unhappy for any reason with their current partner? Are they truly looking to make a change, or just using you for free ideas and price comparisons?

•    Do you have a decision-maker on your side within the organization?
Purchasing decisions for large programs are typically made by a committee and it’s not uncommon for members to have made up their own minds before even approaching the table. Going to the decision round without an internal advocate puts you at a significant disadvantage and can be an insurmountable obstacle to success.

•    Is price the main factor driving the decision?
Granted, price is always going to be a factor, but if the client is considering nothing else and it gets to the point where the program would be a whole lot of work for a pitiful profit, it’s time to ask yourself another question. Do I even want this business?

In this day and age, nobody has time to be toyed with. By truly qualifying an opportunity before making a huge investment of your time and resources, you can ensure your best efforts stay where they belong – with the clients and prospects who value your partnership.

AboutMichelle McCafferty

Michelle joined the Proforma team in 2008. As the Manager of Business Development for Major Accounts, she helps Proforma Owners win new and grow existing programs through proposal and presentation development, as well as periodic Relationship Reviews. Before joining Proforma, Michelle attended Cleveland State University where she earned a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication.

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