In my last blog 'Why You Hate Cold Request for Proposals (RFPs)', I wrote about many of the reasons why you hate cold RFPs. The list of reasons could be endless. But accepting the pain when there is potential client opportunity won’t get you any closer to winning the bid. As promised in our last blog, there is a better way. In this blog, I share some strategies our clients have used to get ahead of the process and avoid being surprised by cold RFPs.
A Strategic Approach to RFPs
We’ve known that RFPs are a reality, and given that they serve the customer’s purposes quite well, they aren’t going anywhere soon. How do you elevate your position?
First, you try to limit the number of cold RFPs that you are subjected to. Some organizations do this by refusing to bid anything cold. If you are awash in opportunity, or just have a strong commitment to relationship-based selling, that may be a good start. But it is certainly not enough.
The next step, however, must obviously be to get out ahead of the RFPs. There are plenty of metaphors to describe what that looks like. I was never a good hockey player, but I like Wayne Gretzky's quote, "A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be." Those were the good players, the ones who could read the ice, and be at the goal post to nail the hat trick.
The good news is you can warm up those cold RFPs by having good data to see bidding and project trends. If you look carefully, there is plenty of good data available to help you read the ice. For public organizations, this includes:
Capital Improvement Plans (CIPs). Capital Plans are a short to mid-range document that identifies capital projects and purchases, providing planning insights for the next four to ten years. These documents range in size from 10s to 1000s of pages. The CIP often includes financing options for projects. CIPs give insight in terms of customer priorities, and although not all plans are funded and executed, they show a strong indication of direction. Motivated vendor partners do comparative analysis on successive CIPs and notice change, what is being funded and de-funded. Today in late 2020, this is particularly important around organizational budget changes due to the pandemic.
Meeting Minutes. Minutes can provide insight about facts, such as plans to do RFPs on CIP projects. They provide evidence of decisions, such as awards to your business or to the competition. Meeting minutes don't generally make good daytime reading. If you efficiently scan them, however, there can be valuable embedded information, both on current priorities and how individual board or council members are feeling about different subjects.
Compliance Records. Compliance pressures often foretell future actions, particularly in heavily-regulated operations such as drinking water, transportation, or power utilities. Drinking water utilities with serious EPA drinking water lead service line problems are doing massive replacements of those lines. Power utilities with NERC and PUC service reliability problems are likely to be upgrading their transmission and distribution. Transit authorities with FTA rail safety problems will likely address those in related infrastructure improvements such as improved monitoring and crossings. Keeping tabs on all sorts of compliance-related issues can keep you ahead of future RFPs.
Public Utility Commission (PUC) Dockets. Regulated utilities are governed, in different ways, by their PUCs. PUCs are designed to help assure safe and reliable delivery of services and protect the rate-paying public from potential monopoly-style pricing abuses. Although PUC records can present a jumbled haystack of 1000s of dockets (folders) containing millions of filings, a trained eye can extract valuable information that highlights pending changes in power, water, waste, communication, and transportation-related utilities. The trick is finding those needles in the haystack of interest to an infrastructure business developer.
There are many more bits and pieces of information, including personnel changes, permit applications, and regulatory drivers, that can be useful in their own rights. But brought together, the combined information can provide groundbreaking insights. And with those insights, comes learning to love the RFP process.
The point of Business Intelligence is to pull all of these facts into one, the uniform location where the relationships between them can be visualized. Armed with this knowledge, you approach your customer before the RFP, and do your trusted-advisor work to help them issue an optimized RFP. Everyone is happier and more-successful...except your competitors. See “Why You Hate Cold RFPs”.
You are smart, and you work hard. But to win, you want to work smart too. If you are chasing cold RFPs, you may still be playing “Pee Wee” rather than AAA hockey. Both groups are working hard, and having fun doing it. The kids swarm the puck, but the talented hockey players are spread out, passing strategically, and are more-likely to score at will.
If you are interested in evaluating Business Intelligence as a tool to advance your business, talk to us and we'll do a pilot project. We’ll mash up your data with ours, and help you see new insights that lead directly to business opportunities. We can help you skate to where the puck is traveling today, and set your business up for even more success in 2021.
None of the information we provide may be taken as legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you require a legal interpretation of this information.
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