Winning Your Next RFP: Get on the Brand’s Winning Shortlist

Winning Your Next RFP

Many times when a brand releases a Request For Proposal (RFP) to the public, they already know who will win their business. This often-overlooked fact will keep you from getting on their shortlist. 

Brands come up with an RFP after conversations are started around problems they’ve experienced internally. They’ve already talked to agencies, and these conversations are much less formal than a pitch, giving those agencies who started these talks early a winning chance before you even see the RFP. 

So how can you get on the brand’s shortlist before an RFP is released? It takes months of build-up to get in front of the RFP process, but with a proactive and consistent approach, you can save resources and turn out a higher win rate for your RFPs. 

Before going into another pitch, it’s a worthy exercise to answer these three questions first:

  • Which RFPs do I have a right to win?
  • What can I do to get in front of brands before the RFP goes to bid?
  • Is there a way to win the bid before the RFP is out?

You can watch the webinar here or keep reading to learn more. 

Which RFPs do I have a right to win?

The first question you need to ask is whether you fit the profile the brand is looking for. Many RFPs include specific employee numbers to gauge size or capabilities along with questions around vertical or industry expertise. Before jumping in and dedicating the time and resources it takes to submit an RFP, make sure there is a real problem you can solve first.

Brands are doing their own research:

  • 85% are conducting their own research before contacting a potential agency partner.
  • 85% seek industry experience.
  • 78% investigate 5-10 agencies before compiling a shortlist.
  • 67% look at case studies.

You have a Right to Win when you can meet the capabilities, staffing needs, and expertise in a given area. Draw those boundaries firmly and stick to them. You will improve your win rate just by doing this. 

What can I do to get in front of brands before the RFP goes to bid?

To get in front of the line, you have to meet brands when they are in problem-solution mode. This is when they know there is a problem within their brand and have clearly identified this, but have not framed out a solution for it. That is when you want to start conversations so when the brand does go to RFP, you’re in the room to pitch or you’ve been hand-picked and the RFP is simply a formality to winning the business. 

Think of the day brand marketers have – jumping from one meeting to another while balancing their day-to-day workload and addressing problems the company is facing across all departments, from digital transformations to the next TikTok trend. In between all of this, wouldn’t you want to talk to an agency that is proactively coming up with solutions to your problems?

A proactive approach to new business development will look different from the response-based approach. In an RFP pitch, you can expect the solution to be clearly articulated, but when you’re proactively having conversations your first meetings are intended to uncover problems the marketing team is facing. From here, you can begin to create the outline of a solution and share this with them when the timing is right.

Is there a way to win the bid before the RFP is out?

The short answer is yes, absolutely! But it will not happen overnight. A successful new business development director will understand how to navigate the sales process while maintaining a positive relationship. Because ultimately, they will know that timing is the biggest factor in closing a new deal than any other metric.

How many times have you lost a pitch and heard the client share that they liked your ideas but had to go with someone else? Many people would call this a loss, but it’s an opportunity to keep a door open. Whether that door is opened because you lost an initial pitch or through other avenues, there is always a chance to win another deal when the timing is more suited. So how do you keep up with the brand over time?

A sales leader should keep in touch with the brand in an authentic way, and continue to learn about the problems they are facing. This consistency will keep you in the loop when the next RFP goes to bid, and when it does, they will have you in mind when creating the specific criteria needed to win. 

Get more insights like this from Catapult and Winmo in this webinar where we share Secrets to Beating the RFP Process.

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Marissa Martin

As Senior Marketing Manager of Catapult New Business, Marissa leads our agencies' proactive marketing efforts by ensuring that they are creating content and processes that drive new business revenue.