May 31, 2022 • Podcast

How do I sell in a competitive bidding environment?

Paul lays out your rights, as the salesperson, in the competitive bidding process.

Show Notes

Let the customer know your rights as the salesperson:

  • Access to the information you need to compile your proposal
  • Access to decision makers
  • To know the selection criteria
  • To know who the competition is

“If you’re willing to put your time and energy and effort into a comprehensive bid, you deserve this information.”

“What do you hope to achieve in a bid that we cannot gain just working together, one on one?” A negotiated contract is always better than a competitive bid.

If possible, deliver the proposal in person.

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How do I sell in a competitive bidding environment?

(Transcribed from podcast)

So recently I was working with a group of salespeople, and one of the salespeople had a great question. He said, “Paul, you know, with my customer base, what I typically have to do is put together a bid. That’s how I sell. I basically put together a bid and I hope to win the bid.” So that’s where we’re going to focus on in today’s episode: How do I sell during the bidding process (or the tender process, I think it’s called in other parts of the world)? But you guys get it. The basic process is simple. You put together a proposal and then you submit it along with probably five or six other companies, and you cross your fingers to see if you’re going to win. This is a challenging environment, but you, as the salesperson, you have an opportunity here. And that’s what we’re going to focus on today is how you can sell in this type of environment.

Before we get into some of the tips and ideas, though, make sure you pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. Selling Through Tough Times, it’s your go-to guide for building mental resilience. And not only that, but also there is a whole segment on leadership in this book. One of the last few chapters is how to lead your team through tough times. So, if you’re a sales leader, if you’re a salesperson, pick it up: Selling Through Tough Times. Available wherever you get your books.

So let’s get right to it. How do you sell during the bidding process? Let’s talk about your rights, first of all—your rights as the salesperson. When you’re going through a bidding process and your customers tell you you have to put together a bid; you have to follow this process, you have certain rights. It’s not like you’re relinquishing all of your control over to the customer. You have earned the right to get the information you need. That’s the first thing you get—you earn the right for information. And you need to make that clear to the customer. Reassure them that, “Yes, we’re happy to put together our bid and follow your process, but here’s what we need from you.” You have the right to information.

You also have the right to meet with decision makers to get their input. That is so critical. And if—. You’ve got to think about this. If a customer is not willing to meet with you or to share information with you, is that business that you really want to begin with? Is it a good fit for company? So you have the right to information.

Number two. You have the right to know the selection criteria. When they say, “Just put together your best number and let us know where we’re at,”—no. Ask them about the criteria. Say, “In addition to price, what criteria are you going to use to make this decision?” Get that information from them. You have that right. Because, again, you’re trying to put together a solution that matches their needs. So make sure you request that. Demand it if they’re not willing to give it to you.

You also have the right to know who your competition is. That is bologna when the customer says, “Well, we’re not going to share with you who you’re competing with.” Bull. You have the right to know that. You know, this is one of those instances where too many salespeople just roll over when the customer says roll over or sit or stand. You have the right to this information. This is going to help you put together a more comprehensive proposal. And if you’re willing to put your time and energy and effort into a comprehensive bid, you deserve this information.

And then, finally, you have a right to a recap. Demand that you get a recap meeting after the process. Win, lose, or draw, you have the right to sit down with the buying team and walk through and get some insight and get some information. So those are your rights as a salesperson. And if those rights are violated, you’ve got to ask yourself, “Okay, do I really want to go after this opportunity?”

Now, the next thing that I would do, especially if this is a good customer, a customer that you’ve worked with for years, and all of a sudden they’re telling you that you need to put together a bid—a competitive bid to win over their business. Go back to them and ask this question: “What do you hope to achieve in a bid that we cannot gain just working together one-on-one?” Really let that question sink in. Give your customer time to answer that question. That is critical. A negotiated contract is always better than a competitive bid. So, I would decide as an organization, how you want to respond to that. But if they come back with a few demands that you can make happen, you’re better off, in the long run, going through that than a competitive bid.

Now here’s a couple tips on submitting the quote. If possible, deliver the proposal in person. And the reason you want to deliver the proposal in person: number one—it’s going to give you an opportunity to answer questions that the customer may have. So, of course we want to have that opportunity, but also it gives you an opportunity to read their non-verbals. You can view how they respond as they read through it, as they look at it. So, it gives you a chance to read their non-verbals. But also, also, you’ve got to remember that you’re relying on the capabilities of their printer in their office. If they’re missing ink, if their paper is getting jammed, your proposal’s going to come out looking like a mess. Not only that, but you are part of the proposal. If you show up and you look professional and you give a stellar presentation, that’s going to put you in a good position.

When you submit the quote, the first thing you want to do on that quote, regardless of what they tell you their process is, begin with a review of the buyer’s needs and also their concerns, and also the pressure that they are feeling. Review those pressure points. We’ve talked about this on previous episodes. But your proposals should begin with a detailed summary of the customer’s needs, wants, concerns, and also their pressure points. This makes the buyer aware of their needs before they go into reading your actual proposal.

So, those are a few tips. Again, when you are out there, you have rights as a salesperson, especially in a bidding scenario. I wish we had more time. I have several other tips that I could go through. But guys, wanted to give you just a few ideas as you’re in that competitive bidding scenario.

Make it a big day.

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