No RFPs: the pinnacle of brand and sales success
Formal requests for proposal, or RFPs, consume - and I would argue waste - large amounts of time and human energy for both the issuing and responding organizations. The amount of irrelevant data and information that make up the "criteria" for submission, let alone selection, can be disheartening and drain productivity. But it's the cost of doing business - unless your brand and relationships are so strong that a CEO simply calls you in to do business, forfeiting the whole RFP process.If, for example, you or your CEO decides your entire sales force would be more productive using iPhones than Blackberries, cell phones, or other devices, will RFPs go out to multiple wireless providers to compare solutions? No, because it would be a waste of time and money. The only consideration would be the budget and that would entail a soft negotiation instead of a proposal process.Another example would be hiring an architecture firm that an owner or developer wants to design his next project. Based on the architect's brand, style, reputation and perhaps relationship, no RFP is needed - a negotiation session perhaps, but no RFP.I've experienced such rosy situations in my own business. By remaining in contact with our desired prospects in a valuable, consistent way, some clients have pre-identified us as the chosen partner to provide the best communication services for them. A contract is usually executed, but price is not a barrier because of earned trust. This kind of relationship is mutually more profitable and enjoyable.When less time, effort and money are wasted chasing low-probability sales opportunities, more focus, energy and value will go into helping your clients succeed. That in turn will earn loyalty and enthusiastic referrals.Reaching the pinnacleHow do you reach the pinnacle of brand and sales success in your industry? I'll offer a top 10 list of requirements and accompanying questions that will steer you in the right direction.• Positioning - What does your brand stand for? Does it have differentiation with relevance to your market?• Quality - Are you truly better than most of your competition or are you just trying to sell an idea?• Value - Do you communicate successful outcomes and values or features and benefits duplicated by your competitors? What's your unique selling proposition?• Leadership - Are you known for innovation as an industry thought-leader or just another vendor?• Salesmanship - Do you keep in touch regularly with customers and prospects offering them value with every contact or do you just try "to keep the lines open" and compare prices?• Networking - How well do you know the key players in your market? More importantly, how well do they know you?• Service - Do you have a service ethic and culture that permeates every aspect of your business, earning you consistent referrals?• People - Are you a great person to work with? Can you attract and keep the best people for every role in your organization?• Training - Are you dedicated to providing the training and tools your people need to win? Are you always learning and applying new knowledge in your work?• Marketing - Does your business execute a strategic marketing plan with an allocated budget or do you just promote when you need to drum up business?Excellence in all 10 areas doesn't happen overnight, but it can be achieved. As you begin to work more on your business rather than being caught up in your business, you'll inevitably begin to lower the cost of sales.Chuck Sink is a sales director at the Manchester marketing firm of wedu Inc. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.