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Rethinking the RFP Process: A New Approach to Procurement

A Sales Growth Company
January 3, 2024

Let’s face it, Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are universally dreaded in the business world and rightfully so. They are bureaucratic tools that create more problems than they solve, complicating the procurement process rather than streamlining it. RFPs tend to be bogged down by unnecessary details and feature lists that overlook the real needs of the organization.

I can guarantee you that if you are still using an RFP process you have, on more than one occasion, bought the wrong solution. The traditional approach stifles innovation, limits vendor engagement, and results in solutions that fail to address the actual business challenges.


The Case for a Business-Centric RFP Process

1. Focus on Business Goals and Objectives

    • Start with Clarity: Instead of a feature-centric RFP, start with a clear understanding of the organization’s goals. What are the key challenges? What does success look like?
    • Align Solutions with Objectives: Emphasize solutions that align with the actual objectives of the department or company, that are more robust than feature checklists.


2. Understand Why You Need to Change

    • Identify the Need for Change: Detail why the current solutions or processes are lacking. What are the motivations and the deficiencies in the current state?
    • Guide Vendors with Context: Providing this context helps potential vendors tailor their proposals to address the real issues, rather than guessing or relying on generic recommendations.


Promote Engagement and Expertise in the RFP Process

1. Encourage Vendor Engagement

    • Foster Collaboration: More interaction between vendors and clients should be the goal. Create an environment that encourages the free flow of ideas and information.
    • Leverage Vendor Expertise: Recognize that potential vendors are specialists in their field (or they should be). They can offer valuable insights and solutions that might not be immediately apparent to non-experts.


2. Move Past Feature Checklists

    • Prioritize Problem Solving: Focus on how potential solutions can solve key problems or address critical challenges, rather than ticking off feature lists.
    • Evaluate Based on Impact: Consider how well a proposed solution meets the organization’s strategic goals and desired outcomes.


A New Approach to RFPs: Problem-Solving and Innovation

1. Rethinking the RFP

    • Invite Creative Solutions: Encourage vendors to think outside the box and propose innovative solutions that address the business problems you’ve uncovered.
    • Focus on the ‘How’: Shift the primary question from “What features do you offer?” to “How would you solve this problem?”


2. Benefits of a Redesigned RFP

    • Efficiency and Effectiveness: A more targeted RFP process can save everyone involved time and resources.
    • Build Stronger Relationships: We want to encourage more meaningful collaborations between companies and vendors. Businesses need strong long-term results and without laying the groundwork and building trust in the process we’ll often fall short of desired outcomes.

The traditional RFP process needs to either be dropped entirely or rebuilt from scratch. Procurement must shift the focus from a feature-driven approach to a problem-solving one. Transforming this process benefits both the companies issuing them and the vendors responding to them, creating a more efficient, effective, and collaborative procurement process. A revamped process paves the way for solutions that genuinely meets business needs.

Let’s make a pact: if procurement teams agree to revamp the RFP process, sales teams will commit to providing more relevant, effective solutions – deal? Deal.



Why are traditional RFPs so ineffective?

The traditional RFP process tends to focus too much on the features a company deems valuable rather than addressing the core business needs that have the greatest impact and solve the business problem creating a negative cycle of lousy and poor fitting solutions.


How can RFPs be made more effective?

Trash them. On a more serious note, focusing on the business goals, encouraging business engagement, and shifting towards a problem-solving approach. Let the experts work their magic. Salespeople from the potential vendors have the experience in dealing with the problems you’re facing, let them dig in and find the problems they can fix that may or not include the features you deem necessary.


What are the benefits of increased vendor engagement during the RFP process?

Giving a vendor your full attention or allowing a discovery process to take place allows for a better understanding of the business challenges. We get it, sellers can be annoying, but the good ones are really good. If you find one asking questions that get you thinking about the problems in a new light, let them do their thing. You may find some innovative solutions tailored specifically to you.


Can a redesign to the RFP really save time and money?

Yes. A more targeted and efficient RFP process can save significant time and money for both the issuing company and the responding vendor. Allowing a consultant to dig in will ultimately lead to a higher likelihood of a good solution. How many times have you settled on a vendor only to put out another RFP a year later. You didn’t actually solve the problem.


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