Hello, fellow new biz enthusiasts! Two quick thoughts on how you can use Q&A to your advantage. The following are written specifically around an RFP part of a given process. The concepts, though, work throughout a pitch.
- Take advantage of any Q&A. Asking clarifying questions around RFP content are fine and expected. Be sure to include a question or two around their issues (and demonstrate you’ve done some homework). Remember your agency is also being judged by the kinds of questions you’re asking, too. Make sure the questions themselves are well written and smart. Think through the order of how they are asked. Put the more self-serving questions towards the back. Side note – understand if the Q&A is shared by the competitors. Pressed for time to develop questions? Ask me for a list of a few thought-starters. Happy to send ’em to you. Think of these as a template: they should be customized for a pitch.
- Learn from their Q&A responses. While you can’t read too much into it…their language, style and tone can speak volumes if the answers are coming from decision-makers (instead of procurement). Do they answer questions precisely? Are they more than helpful? What kinds of questions are your competitors asking?
One of the most obvious questions you need to better understand is how the deliverables from the agencies will be judged. Not only what the criteria are, but literally, if you can find this out, what’s the internal way the RFPs will be read.
Here’s some great, related advice from Don Peppers in his book, “Life’s a Pitch, Then You Buy” (Buy this book here.)
“…then consider the method by which the responses will be evaluated. Every client will have a system for reducing the voluminous amount of reading involved. But most companies will adopt one of two methods: either one person will be responsible for the initial screening, perhaps with some oversight from another manager, or a team will do it.
If the responsibility falls to one person, you can bet that this person will not read every word in each of the responses… At some point, he/she will ask themselves which question has to be answered right for a competitor to be considered. Then they’ll read that single item in each response, eliminating those who don’t get it right…[the process is repeated, identifying the most important questions].
When you first get the questionnaire, spend time thinking about how it is likely to be reviewed. A fast-growing, entrepreneurial company, or a company that operates in a fast-paced retail environment is like to assign the questionnaire responses to a single individual to make the first cut. A larger or more mature organization, more likely to be managed on a consensus basis, will usually assign a team or committee.”
So, leverage your Q&A time in a pitch. As you’ve read, it’s a great way to not only move ahead of your competition, but sharpen your learning around what your content & context needs to be moving forward in the contest.