Deprecated: mysql_connect(): The mysql extension is deprecated and will be removed in the future: use mysqli or PDO instead in /home/a26f9f83/public_html/articles/includes/config.php on line 159
What Is A Proposal? And Why Do You Need One? > NetSparsh - Viral Content you Love & Share

What Is A Proposal? And Why Do You Need One?

Do you know anyone who regularly wins bids? Or can boast a balanced relationship between doing the hard work of producing proposals and regularly winning the business?

I'm always amazed at how much energy people put into responding to a Request For Proposal (RFP) in relation to the level of success ? or non-success ? they realize. And yet they continue to put time and resources into this relatively unproductive activity.

In fact, what is an RFP anyway?

An RFP is the standard format that companies use to figure out what they need to buy and how they need to buy it (not necessarily who they need to buy it from). Actually, it's not about vendor choice or price. It's about learning how to make a decision.

In reality, the process is ineffective for everyone: the buyer and the seller. Indeed, RFPs are nothing more than a different form of sales pitch.

I got a delayed call back from a client who was usually timely in his response. I was surprised at the time lag.

"We've just gotten our first RFP from Company X. They've always done business with ABC Company before, and this is our first opportunity to get some business with them. We've got a team of folks working hard on getting this just right so we can get in there."

"What is stopping them from using ABC Company this time?"

"Um, haven't a clue. I'll call and ask."

He called back the next day.

"Nothing is stopping them. They are using ABC Company. They just needed a second bid."


When salespeople receive an RFP there is the assumption that it's open season ? that if they put together a dynamite proposal, they will win the bid. It's equivalent to the belief that if a seller pitches and presents just the right information in just the right way to just the right people, buyers will be ready and willing and able to buy.

How many millions of great proposals have ended up in the bin? How many millions ? um, billions ? of person-hours have gone into proposals that failed? Why? Because the product was bad? Because the proposal was bad? Because the client didn't need the vendor?

Of course not. Then why?

Let's look at this from the buyer's side and retrace some of the ideas we've discussed in these newsletters before.

To start with, buyers send out RFPs to those companies they believe can help them. So they have already vetted you by the time you get the RFP. And, quite honestly, they can find out much of what you're including in your proposal on your website. What is it they really need from you then?

Buyers have needs that exist within a complex system of people, initiatives, relationships, and rules. Buyers can't just "make a purchase": their internal systems are too complex. They need to cover their bases internally before they bring anything new into their environment. And, when it's a decision to do something they've not done before, or bring in something that will shift existing configurations, they will invariably run up against issues that have far greater consequences than anyone from the outside could imagine.

But people don't make decisions based on information. People make decisions based on meeting their criteria ? their values, beliefs, ethics, history, fears, hopes, initiatives, relationships, and even unconscious, idiosyncratic reasons that no one from the outside will ever understand.

Sales people have this simplistic belief that if they pitch, present, propose their solution in just the right way that the buyer will know what to do with it. Obviously ? and millennia of failed proposals, presentations, and pitches will bear me out ? this doesn't work. (The larger question here, of course, is why they keep doing it.)


People decide only when criteria get aligned. Once people and groups understand how to get their criteria met, then they need the appropriate information to match the data with the criteria.

But since companies do not know how to line up their criteria, they send out RFPs in the hope that they will get back the type of information that will lead them to discover their criteria.

To help explain this, I'd like to go back for a moment to the original example I gave of Company X above. Once we realized that responding to the RFP would do nothing but waste their time, my client and I put together a list of criteria-based Facilitative Questions that we knew (because of my client's expertise as a solution provider) needed to be answered and obviously weren't being addressed.

My client sent them a brief letter, telling Company X that they'd love their business, but thought they could help them best by offering the enclosed questions. A sampling of these questions (we actually sent two pages of Facilitative Questions) included:

- How will the product or service fit in with existing systems?

- How will the users know to buy-in to the new solution? How will you know when they are having difficulty?

- What type of service will maintain the new offering ? and can it be handled internally or need an external resource to manage it?

- What are the different ways that a new product will support the desired results? Create a need for additional systems? Create confusion within the different departments? And how will that be managed?

- How will the buyers know that one solution is better than another?

- How will they know that one vendor will give better service than another vendor before they choose one?

A few weeks later, a representative of Company X called my client and thanked him, saying that he recognized the importance of the questions although he couldn't answer many of them. He said he hoped my client didn't mind, but he was giving the list to ABC Company to incorporate in their solution and that my client would be strongly considered for their next project.

Six weeks later, after the project had already begun, Company X fired ABC Company after an eight-year relationship, and called my client, asking them to pick up the project. The reason? ABC Company was not incorporating responses to our questions within their project plans.

My client got a two-year, multi-million dollar project because of a list of questions ? or, more accurately, because the questions exhibited to Company X that my client understood their criteria and were aware of the true underlying, systemic issues that needed to be managed. They never responded to the RFP.


In general, people in companies do not know how to manage, understand, develop, or uncover their criteria on their own. They are too close to the situation.

Think about yourself for a moment. What is it that you have been promising yourself you're going to do? Go to the gym? Lose weight? Catch up on all your reading? You know you need to do those things. But you don't. Why? Is it because it's a bad gym? Or because you like tight-fitting pants? No ? it's because you haven't figured out yet how to line up your behavior with your criteria, and until you do, you won't change your behavior [hint: it's about changing your beliefs. If you believe you are a healthy person, you'll go to the gym whether you like to or not, for example. Your behavior will track your beliefs in order to keep you congruent.].

Once someone from outside can lead you through your personal, unique decisioning process, you are able to recognize the criteria that you need to meet before you can change. After all, systems seek stasis, and whatever product or service you are selling in your proposal ? no matter how wonderful or how badly needed or how value-packed - it will bring some form of chaos to the status quo. And before the system will seek chaos, it will need to know how to reorganize itself rapidly after the intrusion that the new solution brings with it.

Once buyers know what a solution will have to include, they will know exactly what they need from a vendor and be able to use their criteria to choose efficiently ? possibly even without an RFP.

As a potential vendor, instead of offering buyers an RFP filled with product and service information, use the RFP as a platform to exhibit your skills. Show them that you recognize your job is one of a true trusted advisor, and you will be helping them decide how to align their criteria and manage their discovery/change in addition to having a great product.


Here is the strategy: When you receive an RFP, call the client and ask him/her if you can work through some Facilitative Questions with them.

Then, use the decisioning sequence in Buying Facilitation and go down the Funnel with the questions, starting with helping them discover where they are, what's missing, and how they got there. [Note: for the specifics of the questions and sequencing, go to and buy my new ebook Buying Facilitation: the new way to sell that expands and influences decisions.]

Once the nature of the questions becomes obvious ? they help the buyer discover their own answers - the person you are speaking with will either get others on the phone, or ask you to come in, or do something equally extraordinary (If indeed they are seeking a new vendor. Close to 70% of RFPs are sent just for a second bid and to better understand their criteria for success. Most companies have chosen their vendor before the RFP is ever sent out.). You may not get all the decision makers, and possibly your contact will be the only person you speak with, but take what you can get.

Whatever happens next will move you out of the competition. You will have exhibited your value-add, and either be chosen this time, or receive some future consideration.

This will work in any situation except for government agencies that, by law, need to issue RFPs. But even for government agencies, you can mitigate the standard problems inherent in responding to RFPs by calling your contact and using Buying Facilitation to position your proposal.

Remember that companies need the answers to the Facilitative Questions ? the answers are for the buyer to learn from, not for the seller to sell with. They will discover the answers eventually ? with you, or without you.

By using the facilitative questions, you will be:

1. helping the buyer line up all of those mysterious variables that they will need to address prior to making a decision;

2. showing the buyer how to discover and handle hidden problems that they would encounter when bringing in a solution (and that are actually causing them to need an RFP to begin with).

3. demonstrating your ability to be a true consultant and advisor so if nothing else, after you end up responding to the RFP like everyone else, they will know the quality of your service;

4. moving you out of the pack of look-alike competitors.

I can't guarantee that by doing this you will not need to respond to the RFP (although, anecdotally, dozens of people I've trained have told me they got the business just from the phone call or subsequent visit). But at least you will then know how to create a competitive proposal that includes more than just product information.

After all, at the end of the day, the company sending out the RFP only seeks to get their needs met, cover their bases, learn what they need to learn, and solve their problem with the least amount of disruption.

Responding to an RFP will not give them what they seek. But using Buying Facilitation on them will teach them how to seek precisely what they need to know ? and give you a more supportive role in the meantime.

Sharon Drew Morgen is the author of NYTimes Best seller Selling with Integrity. She speaks, teaches and consults globally around her new sales model, Buying Facilitation.
Morgen Facilitations, Inc.
Austin, TX

In The News:

This RSS feed URL is deprecated, please update. New URLs can be found in the footers at

Enterprise Irregulars (blog)

How To Sales Manage Upside and Unlikely Deals
Enterprise Irregulars (blog)
And then, provided you have sufficient pipeline, your sales management team basically puts all of its effort into and attention on the commit and forecast deals. They're the ones that get deal reviews. They're the ones where the team does multiple dry ...


10 Underrated Sales Performance Indicators That Work
The mistake most sales managers make is focusing on the outcomes of salespeople's effort, not the quality and quantity of the effort itself. In fact, my research shows that only 17% of metrics reported from customer relationship management (CRM) system ...


How Sales Managers Secretly Sabotage Revenue
Into Obscurity. If you're like most business leaders, you invest heavily in your sales force. In fact, if you add up all the money you spend on training, incentives and technology, you might be alarmed at the size of your ongoing investment in improved ...

Logistics Management

June retail sales post gains, report Commerce and NRF
Logistics Management
Commerce reported that June retail sales, at $506.8 billion, were up 0.5% annually and were ahead of May's revised $504.3 billion. Total retail sales for from April through May are up 5.9% annually. And retail trade sales were up 0.3% over May and up 6 ...

and more »

Startup Spotlight: Entrepreneur starts Forensics of Selling business to provide sales-related services
An outgrowth of some of the work Lappe did for clients at WebStrategies, the new startup provides a variety of sales-related services to client businesses. For instance, it provides fractional sales management for several clients. It also offers sales ...

Tech Wire Asia

And why does a fast-growth business need a CRM?
Tech Wire Asia
Relative to the price of hiring more sales managers or further complicating your company structure and processes – employing a CRM tool is a cost-effective way to assess and store invaluable customer data and insights. But choosing the wrong CRM can be ...

Training Journal

What elements do world-class sales managers have in common ...
Training Journal
Sales managers have one of the most important roles in any sales organisation, because they oversee the sales team itself. As a result, they have a role to play ...
A Prescription For Sales Enablement: Start With The Problem, Not ...Forbes

all 2 news articles »

Customer Think

New Data – Are Experienced Sales Managers Better Sales Managers?
Customer Think
Last week I wrote a revealing article which showed that Sales Managers are even worse than I thought when it comes to coaching their salespeople. That article stimulated this great conversation on LinkedIn. Following that article I dug further into the ...

GTP Headlines (press release) (blog)

'Golden Age Hotel of Athens' Appoints Vicky Liakou as Director of Sales
GTP Headlines (press release) (blog)
Vicky has more than 20 years of experience in the sales management of four- and five-star hotels. From her new position, β€œshe will participate in the efforts to rebuild and enhance the brand name of the historic and renowned Golden Age Hotel,” the ...

Top 5 Contact Management Software for Marketers
MarTech Advisor
HubSpot CRM lets you manage the sales process without impacting your current workflow. HubSpot CRM offers contact management, company insights, and records, deals and tasks. For marketers, HubSpot CRM can help you with the lead analytics ...

Google News

How to Sell Strategically

If you want to maximize your sales performance, take a... Read More

How to Organize a Seminar or an Event

Seminars and events have always been implemented as a holistic... Read More

How To Have A Successful Retail Sales Event

In the 30-plus years I spent working in advertising and... Read More

Sex, Drugs, & Rock-n-Roll at Trade Shows

Here's the Scenario...You're at a trade show. Out of town.... Read More

6 Common Mistakes in the Sales Hiring Process

Is lack of sales results, more sales training costs, months... Read More

Train a Winning Sales Team: Rounding Third and Heading for Home

Although I never met the man, I imagine Lou Boudreau... Read More

4 Marketing Myths Threaten Your Sales

These 4 marketing myths can cause you to lose sales... Read More

Run a Productive Business From Your Car-Office

The way we do business has changed dramatically over the... Read More

100% Commission Equals Zero Percent Control

The temptation to use straight (100%) commission plans never goes... Read More

Project/Program Management Best Practices for Success in ANY Industry!

Where is our success? Although there have been improvements, over... Read More

Ten Awesome Ways To Incease Your Sales In Holidays

Everybody thinks that the businesses will slow down a bit... Read More

How to Beat the 80/20 Rule in Sales Performance -- Part 2

Another key reason why companies suffer from 80/20 performance is... Read More

Moving a Business Relationship from Free to Fee: Turning Strangers to Friends with Power of Freebies

In the last issue I shared with you a technique... Read More

Promoting Your Private Label at Industry Trade Shows

So everyone thought you were crazy when you announced 6... Read More

Stop Drowning: Nine Strategies For Managing Your Priorities

I just got off the phone with Susan. She is... Read More

To Increase Your Sales and Revenue Make Sure To Add Value

What are you and your company's services and products worth... Read More

Management From Within

Inspiration and Management from Within ? Part 2.The more you... Read More

How to Win Over the Man in the Chair Salesmanship, Repetition, and Direct Mail

In a classic business-to-business print ad from the late 50's... Read More

Pointless Targets

I recall a heated discussion with a sales director some... Read More

Offer Package Deals To Increase Profits And Sales

An effective way to increase your profits and sales is... Read More

A Coachs Handbook For Sales Managers

This article may be reprinted in its entirety with express... Read More

The Boss from Hell: Quick to Criticize, Slow to Praise

So you have a boss who dumps all over you... Read More

4 Tips for the Summer Slowdown - How To Pick Up Sales

You may have heard about the "summer slowdown". You may... Read More

Hiring--A Vital Key In Sales Management Success

Recently, I was asked to spend some time on the... Read More

The Spirit Of Change

A Highly Conscious Approach To Business Management. For more on... Read More