We rewrote the RFP to our advantage
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We rewrote the RFP to our advantage

Editor’s note: Greatest Sales are true accounts of how successful salespeople closed the deal despite sales objections, buyer inertia, cutthroat competition and other obstacles. Norm Burch, Sales Manager for the Greer Co. in Santa Ana, CA, faced an RFP that put him at a disadvantage.

The good news: We were looking at a $250,000+ sales opportunity – a significant sale for our company.

The bad news: Everyone and his brother was looking at it too.

We manufacture specialized equipment for cranes. It’s a small but intensely competitive market. So when the U.S. Marine Corps needed to retrofit some of its mobile cranes, word spread quickly.

Hope for the best?
Everything was going to be by the book on this deal. The government had issued a long and detailed request for proposal (RFP) and would select its vendor based on competitive bids.

Their RFP was out there for everyone to see and bid on. We were up against some very large competitors as well as smaller outfits looking to make a name for themselves.

We faced two choices. We could bid our best price and hope for the best. Or we could dig deeper for an edge our competitors had missed.

We decided to dig.

The cranes were to be refurbished at a Marine repair shop in Albany, NY. I asked if I could see the facility. Sure, the contract officer replied. If I wanted to fly all the way from California to New York, they’d be glad to show me around.

I didn’t know what to expect. I was simply looking for an idea that we could use to set ourselves apart.

I found it.

The “repair shop” looked like a huge manufacturing plant. Old equipment came off a long assembly line looking brand new. Sometimes they’d refurbish 200 units at a time.

Restructured the bid process
The RFP had asked for a bid on only 49 units. Could there be more at stake? Could we offer volume discounts and win more business? I approached the contract officer to see if we could bid on more units than the RFP listed. That would deliver significant unit cost savings – and allow them to retrofit more units all at once on that big assembly line.

We bid on the 49 units in the formal RFP, but they gave us the green light to voluntarily submit an addendum covering work on 50, 100, 150 and 200 units.

On the downside, government regs required them to repost the RFP with these new ground rules, so everyone had an equal chance to offer similar volume price breaks. But I think my competitors missed the significance of the addendum. They saw the deal as 49 units, with the possibility of more to come.

Big volume discount
For us, the addendum was the key. Knowing how much business was at stake, we were able to deliver a very aggressive volume discount bid.

We won. And not for 49 units, but for 161 units. The deal was worth $800,000 – three times the original size of the contract.

This was my Greatest Sale because it showed that even in a competitive bidding situation, there’s always a better way to compete than on price!

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