Your September Advice: It Could Make the Difference Between Winning and Losing Your Next RFP

Have you ever been disappointed when you see a movie after you have read the book? Do you ever think to yourself: “Gosh, the book was just so much better?” That’s because well-written books often trigger the mind and allow the reader to create their own visual and story. Good writers are story-tellers and understand how to show versus tell.

A Common Thread: We “Tell” A Lot in our RFPs

side_quoteI was recently facilitating a training session on best practices for writing winning responses with a large RFP response team. In preparation for the training, our team reviewed several of their recently submitted RFP responses and proposals. Like many of the large organizations we work with, their responses were clear, consistent, and layered with lots and lots of detail. But as I was shaping the specific talking points and activities of the 4-hour training session for this team, I homed in on one specific area of focus: Show… don’t tell.

You may be thinking… Isn’t the whole goal of an RFP response to tell? Share all the details about your solution, how it works, who’s involved, what it does, how much it costs, etc. Yes, that’s true. But if you are only telling, you are leaving it up to the evaluator to connect the dots on how that solution will fit into their world.

What Does it Mean to Show Versus Tell?

Tell: When you tell rather than show, you simply inform the evaluator / reader of information rather than allowing them to deduce anything. You’re supplying information by stating it. Example: My widget is small, brown, and square. That’s telling.

Show: Showing paints a picture the evaluator can actually see come to life as it relates to their business or organization, their employees or their customers or members. Example: When installed, the 1” by 1” widget will take up minimum space, fit in with your office’s modern décor and match your current color pallet. That’s showing.

Showing versus telling in a fact-based technical response is easier said than done. Especially when you have limited space to provide a response. But here are a few ways to shift your focus thoughtfully and consistently to create your story and stand out from others that are just telling theirs:

  • Leverage Client Testimonials: It’s often said that our clients sell us better than we do. Capitalize on your many successful client relationships and infuse testimonials that are aligned and relatable to the prospect to whom you are responding.
  • Share Success Stories: Present multiple anecdotes and past successes to bring your proposal to life. Rather than just spewing off facts, figures, or your years of experience, paint a dynamic picture of the path ahead so that clients can envision themselves taking the next step with you. It will help bring your solutions to life in the real world.
  • Show Your Learnings: Don’t be afraid to share examples of times you were faced with a negative situation and what you did to turn it around, accompanied with the results of the recovery. It will make your company feel more human and relatable and show that you know how to solve problems.
  • Demonstrate Innovation: Have you formed a team to work through a specific market problem? Or developed a new internal process to improve delivery of goods or services to your clients? Do you publish thought leadership? If you infuse any of those examples throughout your proposal or RFP, it can show your prospect that your organization is innovative, and you don’t shy away from difficult problems.
  • Prove it with Proof Points: If you make a claim, support it with evidence. Proof points ensure your solution is accurate, convincing, and believable. Think of it as a “don’t just take our word for it” statement.

Simply stating the features of your product or service isn’t enough anymore. It puts too much of the burden on your buyer and likely puts you side-by-side with competitors. Instead, describe the ways your product or service ultimately fulfills a benefit, need, or solves their problem. The effort of infusing showing with just telling will help you put that product or service in the hands of your customer, making it tangible and real and will help you stand out from your competition.

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About Weber Associates

Weber Associates is a Columbus, OH based consulting firm. Since 1985, we have blended the creativity of a marketing agency with the analytical rigor of a consultancy to help our clients significantly grow revenues and customer loyalty. People hire us to solve real sales and marketing challenges. To improve their sales process. To grab someone’s attention and selling something. In short, they hire us to make their marketing make more sales.