Sign & Digital Graphics

March '18

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26 • March 2018 • S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S ARCHITECTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL RUNNING THE BUSINESS Understand How the RFP, RFQ, and Bid Game is Played Want to claim victory before the battle? Vince DiCecco is a business training and development consultant and owner of the Acworth, Georgia-based business, Your Personal Business Trainer, Inc. He has been sculpting his sales, marketing and training techniques since 1979, and he has shared innovative and practical ideas on business management excellence for two Fortune 200 companies, the U.S. Coast Guard, and in seminars at past NBM Shows. Since 2003, he has been serving small- to mid- sized companies in their efforts to strive for sustained growth and market dominance. Contact him via email at vince@ ypbt.com or visit his company website, www.ypbt.com. B Y V I N C E D I C E C C O Make it Your Business ment and complimented me on my work. He looked up from the proposal I had prepared and asked, "What do you think are our chances of getting this business?" "Slim to none," I replied. He shot back, "Why?" With an epiphany of clear, rational thought—the origin of which I had no clue—I said, "Three reasons. One, we are not the cheapest water-treatment company around. Two, I've never set foot on the campus, let alone been inside the power plant. And finally, I have no clue about which part of the bid specification the decision makers at the college think is the most important. I've never even met any of these people listed in the RFP." It turned out he was pleased with the intuition of his newest employee and agreed that we didn't have a snowball's chance in you-know-where of winning the bid. So, we devised a new proposal, using a counter-intuitive tact. Everywhere there was a call for some information on the bid specification form we entered "No Bid." This served two purposes. First, by responding to the RFP, my company retained its position on the "preferred suppliers" list at the college for future bids. Second, it allowed us to offer the college's purchasing and engineering departments help in evaluating the other submitted proposals—free-of-charge and without bias—because we had taken ourselves out of contention. To our surprise, the college took us up on our offer, provided they were allowed to redact the competitor's names on each bid. Naturally, we agreed. Throughout the discussions with the purchasing agent and chief engineer, we were able to illustrate discreetly why some of the exclusive features of our company—such as, timely emer- gency response, specialized studies, and in-depth operator train- ing—should have been specified in the original RFP. The key decision makers agreed, and they decided to void the first bid and reissue a new one that we helped write. Because of the trust we developed there and the help we afforded them, we won the business because no one else could deliver completely on the new bid specifications. Responsive, Qualified, Lowest Bidder Soon after the community college contract was won, I took advantage of an offer to attend a seminar entitled, "How to sell to Pima County." The content of the seminar was developed specifically to serve the needs of local and state governments across the nation. Through my experiences with bid situations originating from privately-held and public companies, the major Y ou've just checked the morning mail to find––among your suppliers' invoices, customers' payments and a stash of junk mail––an RFP (request for proposal) from a vaguely-known organization. You've never done business with the company, but you determine the scope of the work for which it is solicit- ing bids is lucrative. You expect the proposal bid to take six or seven hours of research and preparation, but it's due next week. What should you do? Do you have a legitimate shot at win- ning the bid? How do you know? Should you try to low-ball the bid in order to improve your chances of getting the work? All valid questions, but not ones you should be asking yourself—at least, not yet. You will benefit greatly from better understanding the RFP, request for quotation (RFQ), or open bidding process first. I know, it is not what one expects, but doing so will win you more business. I guarantee it. A Short Story Fresh out of the military, I took my first sales position in Tucson, Arizona. In the first month of that job, my district sales manager told me we were invited to bid on a very large opportunity at a local community college. He handed me the bid specifications and told me to access my newfound knowl- edge of our product lines, and "take a crack" at the first draft of our proposal. Oh, and it needed to be done in two days because our bid was due the following week. The bid package was a dozen pages long and had about a hundred blanks that needed to be filled with calculations that clearly demonstrated we knew what we were doing, product names and data sheets, quantities, prices, terms and conditions, references, and a detailed description of the type and level of service we would provide throughout the contract period. When I showed my finished bid package to my boss, he seemed impressed by the attention to detail I gave the assign-

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