How Canadian MSPs Can Respond to RFPs and Win Prospective Clients
- Canadian business owners and nonprofit organizations send Requests for Proposals (RFPs) to elicit a response from potential clients and partners.
- An RFP will specify what a business is looking for and describes every evaluation criteria on which the company will assess the proposals.
- While RFPs present new opportunities for small businesses to get new clients, many business owners debunk them as a waste of time.
- Megan O'Hara from EasyIT says that RFPs can be an excellent way for small businesses to win new clients and scale up their business.
- O'Hara recently helped EasyIT win two large RFPs and shares the entire process in detail.
All businesses, small or midsize, always look for new opportunities to increase revenue and grow their businesses, but many view RFPs (Requests for Proposals) as a waste of time.
Megan O'Hara — who helped EasyIT win two large RFPs — thinks otherwise. She says that RFPs can be a great way to win new business. O'Hara argues that while RFPs can be time-consuming, the reward can be well worth the effort because they present an opportunity for small businesses to:
- Showcase knowledge and expertise
- Demonstrate how their services can meet the client's specific needs
- Build reputation and brand awareness if they win the RFP
Megan highlights how her MSP won two new clients with RFPs.
Determining if an RFP is Worth Responding To
RFPs can be a considerable time commitment. However, Megan recently won two large RFPs for EasyIT, which she says wasn't a coincidence or sheer luck. O'Hara says the two RFPs they won have many similarities, which other small businesses can use to scrutinize and identify the correct response.
Firstly, she points out that her business only participates in an RFP if they have an existing relationship or know the company. Her team has to figure out their relationship with the organization requesting a proposal before considering what they can offer.
To boost their chances of success, O'Hara insists that EasyIT avoids spamming RFPs from:
- Companies they have never heard of
- Non-local organizations
- Businesses that hold information about themselves
After identifying an RFP, Megan will check with her team and other strategic partners to scrutinize the company before they can initiate contact.
How To Choose an RFP Evaluation Criteria
You should consider many factors when evaluating RFPs to respond to. Here are the most important ones that Megan O'Hara considered to win the two RFPs for EasyIT:
1. Previous Relationship
Your first task is to assess whether the RFP is the right fit for your small business, which stems from how much you know about the company.
A past relationship with prospective clients is a huge factor when evaluating an RFP. Megan says their first consideration is the previous or existing relationship with the business requesting a proposal as it affirms their credibility.
Megan says that for both RFPs they won, they had previous relationships with the companies.
2. The Depth of the RFP
Both RFPs that EasyIT won were extensive. O'Hara says that she thought the companies were asking the same question in 10 different ways with one tiny word difference. However, she answered all the questions the RFPs were asking in detail.
Both companies responded to EasyIT that they had the most extensive responses, which showed them that the businesses weren't hiding anything. Megan says they gave full details in graphic visuals to explain everything and what they worked towards, creating clarity and transparency.
Identifying Bad RFPs To Avoid
Sometimes people can message you directly with an RFP that may seem like a type of spam. Your team needs internal criteria to evaluate what RFP to respond to. After all, not all that appears spam-like is spam, and some opportunities might come without past establishment or relationship.
O'Hara says if you remove past relationships, a company's reputation is the next big factor your small business should consider before responding to an RFP. The EasyIT head of sales points out that her company will still consider the following:
- If anyone on their team has heard about the company
- Check if anyone in their client base knows the company reaching out with an RFP
- Scrutinize how the company got information about her company
Then Megan will glance at the RFP to examine what the company is asking her team to do and confirm that the business is looking for a new partner. If the company shows signs of doing its annual or three-year price shopping, EasyIT will not consider the RFP.
Gathering Information in RFPs
Kurt, the CEO of EasyIT, once got a spam RFP. He told Megan the RFP wasn't a winning shot but urged O'Hara to respond as an exercise.
Megan urges businesses to encourage their salespeople to go through the entire RFP process because it will force them to gather any additional information they may not know about their potential partners. After that, they can create an RFP template to keep all the information and customize it to the information in each RFP.
Tools and Tricks To Get Successful With RFPs
Both of the RFPs that EasyIT won were for co-managed IT. O'Hara says her marketing team has a campaign consisting of videos and testimonials from their co-managed IT partners, which helped them win.
In the videos, IT directors and engineers working with EasyIT talk about what it looks and feels like to partner with EasyIT.
O'Hara presented the videos to prospective companies during the interview process. She emailed everyone on the panel, asking them to check the videos before the meeting.
The video series worked because most internal IT teams have a lot of fears about working with outsiders, and you have to make them feel like a team. Megan says that one of the questions in the RFP will ask about how your team deals with culture shifts after the partnership. She says her marketing team had a whole campaign around a culture shift, which made them stand out.
Her team invites internal IT teams to quarterly events to meet other people and clients EasyIT works with. Since no other IT company talks about campaigns around culture shifts, EasyIT can quickly stand out.
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