When I (Jo) hear that a business owner is solely interested in private RFPs and avoids government pursuits, I wonder about the length of their workdays. It takes sophisticated planning and an understanding of how pre-qualification works, a deep familiarity with purchasing teams not bound by transparency (in many cases), and more.
But we’re here to talk strategy. If you can’t search for private RFPs, what can you do? Where do you even start?
I would start with 1-2 sectors that operate on the cusp of the public/private divide first. Hospitals, healthcare systems, networks, etc. and private (or semi-private) Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs). Both may receive federal aid; certainly, both are regulated and have secondary or tertiary markets as offshoots. Both also frequently combine to form member-owned cooperatives, which are basically buyers clubs with one purchasing method and vetting process for uniformity.
For technology companies (talking to you now, reader), the best indicator of interest for your solution is a corporation’s spend on innovation. The actual numbers are usually hidden and/or obfuscated, but the effects are seen in how they discuss emerging technology and changes in consumer-facing products that may impact their service delivery. Innovation programs, teams with varied stakeholders, or dedicated units are a positive sign.
The second best indicator is speed. How quickly are they (the hospital networks or colleges) adapting to the ongoing wave of new innovation? And how much urgency is really there? You can understand this by taking note of the entity’s procurement lifecycle. Some describe their contract process when a vendor is selected, while others describe it when replacing a vendor (and justifying the replacement by noting the extant circumstances around the time of their selection). Speed shows priority, as much as it showcases efficiency or an understanding of the market.
You’re still not finished. You need to divide and categorize your prospects based on the above indicators (at least) then formulate a list of questions to prime your future pre-qualification.
The questions should set the stage for your entry into the prospective’s preferred or vetted list of vendors: “a shortlist."
1 – Assemble your qualifications
This seems rather obvious if your company needs to pre-qualify, but what exactly are larger entities looking for when they evaluate your materials? Financial stability? Length of time in the industry?
We can help you compile this (rather short) list to optimize the touch time you have. The don'ts involve:
- Sending a fully fleshed out proposal with too much information.
- Not showing flexibility when it comes to price, or betraying your knowledge of the market.
- Taking longer than 3 days to respond to an email once they're interested.
- Not mentioning your credentials, 8(a) certification, etc.
2 – Creatively locate a POC
Don't just use contact forms for businesses you wish to solicit. Chances are, your carefully considered message will get ignored, labeled as spam, or handled by the wrong person within the organization, not a stakeholder with authority.
You can locate relevant POCs via FOIA requests and through registrations. Our staff handles this challenge efficiently.
3 – Start building your pipeline
Use TKS to craft a pipeline of private RFPs, once you have assembled your qualifications and had us locate pursuit contacts.
4 – Systematically target each pursuit
TKS recommends a consistent time of the day and frequency for pre-quals, with mornings being best. The application of a process is better than the verbiage or voice of the messaging.
5 – Track responses and follow up
This is perhaps the most important step, and often the most overlooked. Everyone has so much focus in the beginning and then tends to lose focus near the end (especially business owners). We set notifications in order to monitor communications multiple times per day, update our private RFP pipelines in real-time, and always follow up. We deploy apps such as Streak to understand when it's appropriate to reply, when something goes unread, etc. An email that goes 3-4 days without a response will alert our team to take action.