To sell business to business (B2B) enterprise-level product, being included in request for proposals (RFPs) is a must. This is even more important for new companies that sell licenses at price points that are six-figures or more. Many young companies believe that simply having a better product, technology or price point will get them selected to participate, but are shocked when they are consistently not invited to RFPs.
Executives at companies that are aiming to be included in more RFPs should be reviewing these three areas, which, if addressed correctly, can lead to more opportunities to compete for larger contracts.
Brand awareness is key.
Brand awareness is considered nonsense by many C-suite executives because there aren’t legitimate metrics to prove its effectiveness. As a result, brand awareness is often viewed as a made-up marketing term with no discernible impact. But if your leadership team questions the legitimacy of brand awareness, ask them the following question: “Without brand awareness, how does any company get invited to an RFP?” Of course, that’s a rhetorical question. If they’ve never heard of you, you won’t be invited.
The problem with the term “brand awareness,” however, is that it’s too general to provide any good answers. The more specific you can be with brand awareness, the better. The only people with whom you need to establish brand awareness are decision-makers at the types of companies to which you sell your products and services.
For example, if you’re doing PR, the lure for many is to seek high-profile exposure, such as a mainstream national publication or national television, but often getting exposure within trade media in your industry can be more effective. In other words, the goal should not necessarily be to drum up exposure within an outlet that has the most overall reach but rather to garner attention within media that has a higher percentage of your target audience.
For any company that chooses to invest in brand awareness with the purpose of being included in more RFPs, there is only one true metric: “Have you been invited to more RFPs since starting the campaign?”
Define your buyer.
Companies often know that there is a need to clearly define their buyers — not just the types of companies that are being targeted but the executives within those organizations that exert influence over the buying process. Yet many companies default to their target being a large segment of companies, such as “executives at Fortune 500 companies” or “small businesses.”
You’re not selling to the Fortune 500. You’re not selling directly to the C-suite. To target and segment effectively, you have to make decisions that will limit your audience. In other words, you can’t be everything to everyone. If you’re a fintech company, for example, are you targeting finance execs or the IT departments within financial organizations? Are you selling to manager-level, director-level or both? Are you also trying to influence the C-suite so that they ultimately sign off? If so, who? CTO, CIO, CFO?
The point is the more specific you can get with your customer profiles, the better. Once you have a firm handle on who your buyers are, you have to identify where they spend their time online and offline, and you must establish a presence in these places.
Remember that in a B2B buying environment there are different decision makers with different profiles. You must have tailored messages for all of them. It’s painstaking work, but the more you do, the better off you’ll be. You don’t have to be known by the whole world, but you do have to be known by the right people. Finding the right people in a winding B2B sales cycle can be quite the challenge.
Make sure your website showcases your value.
If you’ve established solid brand awareness, then you must make sure your website is up to snuff. That doesn’t mean having a website that looks nice with high-quality images. It means having an effective design logic with a purpose to capture the information of your prospects when they spend time engaging with your content on your website.
According to our research, your company website is the most important marketing channel with regard to being included in an RFP. Websites are used as vetting tools. If you have established some brand awareness, invest in a website that will present you as a product or service provider worthy of RFP inclusion. That means having a website that can quickly and effectively communicate your unique selling proposition. Your website also needs to include high-quality content — webinars, research, videos, articles, a blog. You must have engaging, compelling and authoritative content.
The bottom line is: If the right people know of you, they will keep you in mind when they put out an RFP. If they think of you as they’re adding providers to their formal review, the first thing they’re going to do is take a look at your website. A good website won’t land you the business, but it will most certainly keep you in the RFP discussion.