The 4th Step in the B2B Purchasing Process is comparison of bids received. This can be a great B2B Marketing Opportunity for new suppliers trying to get in .
Here is why:
Deciders in the Buying Center are unlikely to see all the bids in detail. Generally the initial shortlisting work is done by someone from the user department and/or the purchasing/supply chain department. These two shortlisters are likely to be solid but junior professionals. Their primary task is not rejecting viable offers from the shortlist. A bidders’ goal should therefore be to appear as a viable vendor in the documentation submitted.In addition, your web presence must support what you are writing in the bid documents.
To clarify: the B2B Marketing opportunity for new suppliers, happens only when your bid reaches the buyers’ shortlist. Only shortlisted bids will appear in comparative analysis. This analysis would include a comparison of features, prices, after sales service, warranties etc. Do not assume that price is most important as it rarely is in B2B markets, unless the supply item is a commodity.
So how do you get into the shortlist? Here are some pointers:
- Think of your bid documents as a job application: Your B2B customer needs a job to be done, and that is why the RFP is issued in the first place. Just like job description, RFPs’ tend to also have something equivalent to “Essential Qualifications” and “Desirable Qualifications”. Your bid documents should establish that your company has all the qualifications needed.There are three types of resource people in your organization , you need to tap for the coming up with an effective RFP. Effective RFP’s are those that get you into the vendor shortlist:
- Your most market aware – salesperson: This is someone in your team who is most “clued in” or market aware the industry and market you are trying to submit your RFP. Ideally, this person has contacts or friends in that industry or is able to find friends/contacts. With LinkedIn it’s not hard to reach out to Buying Center folks and establish a connection. Sometimes RFP’s have the name of the contact person and its best to ask your questions directly to the concerned person.RFP’s do want to generate several great offers from suppliers. So if you have questions- Ask. Just make sure that the person who is doing the asking is knowledgeable about what you can do and is market aware. Even if you do make the shortlist you need to give the impression of competence and confidence even when you seek clarifications on RFP’s.
- Your team member with the best academic grades: Those students who get the best academic grades have one major ability. The ability to respond appropriately to the exam questions. They have a great sense of what the examiner is looking for and they deliver and get those “A” grades. This person is usually not your best salesperson (everyone does not have all skills!) and could work in another department. Once you have a draft response ready get this academically inclined person to review your submission to check : Do the bid documents address the RFP requirements? In other words the review should identify anything missing so that the submitted documents are comprehensive,concise and complete. You really want the bid documents to look so professional that the supply chain folks feel like “winners” bringing your RFP documents to the review meetings. Excellent bid documents get discussed and several members of the buying center get to know your brand.
- Your agile digital and web person: Once the bid documents are getting ready, it’s a good idea to update your website to ensure that all related materials are also mentioned prominently on your website. You can expect that the buying organization will be Googling you. If you are already advertise digitally, consider starting a brand awareness campaign highlighting the capabilities you showcase in your bid documents.
- Follow up : When you follow-up be polite but persistent. Your persistence shows that you are interested to become a supplier. Also offer to do a meeting. In the post-Covid world you can offer to meet via Zoom and we predict that meetings will become more effective via video. Reduction in travel time might allow you to talk to different buying center folks in different locations. Depending on your product or service it is usually possible to get a trial order that allows the organization to get to know your brand and its associated people.
To summarize, for the B2B Marketer getting into the RFP shortlist is a great way to build your brand with the buying company.