In enterprise solution sales, the consideration cycle is very long. It’s not uncommon for a decision to take six months or more from initial inquiry to final presentations and a contract being awarded. It would seem that marketing could have little to no influence on the outcome of these complex RFP processes, but then again, not everything is what it seems.
Often, the competitors are at near-parity in terms of what the solution offered can do. Of course, there are pluses and minuses to each vendor’s offer, but when you step back from the details, it can sometimes be hard to discern a clear winner “on the merits.” And this is where marketing can make all the difference.
While it is an imperative to follow the requirements of a request for proposal, it is almost always acceptable to do more than is asked outside of the RFP response itself. This is where marketing should drive home messages that can make a difference in decision-making.
But what are the kinds of messages that will make your bid stand out and maybe make the difference? And how are they realized? In our experience, enterprise sales (those in excess of a $1 million) are worth investing in what some call “pursuit packages.” And these RFP pursuits can take as many forms as can be imagined. Below are a few that we’ve done that have worked well (read: led to a deal):
Commitment of top management – assurance of delivery
When a prospect is making a “bet the company” decision, the choice won’t be made solely on objective criteria. Why? Fear is at work. When a prospect is operating from a place of concern, this emotion needs to be answered. One way to do this is for the CEO or president to make clear his or her commitment to the success of the project. We’ve found that a personalized video where the CEO makes use of the product or service is a powerful way to drive home the message that the organization is behind the deal from the top to the bottom. Playing this video during an in-person presentation is truly a differentiator. If the CEO can make a “surprise” appearance as the video concludes, even better. Showmanship is never forgotten and if it’s purposeful it can be the difference maker.
We understand you – custom presentation intro for in-person pitches
A lot of RFP responses aren’t customized to the prospect. What I mean is that they stick to the Q&A and don’t make it clear that the vendor really has worked to understand the business of the prospective client. If the enterprise sale is a relationship, then it pays to show that you’ve done your homework and have deeply thought about the fit between your organizations. Restate their goals. Show how your organization and theirs are aligned culturally, geographically, technologically and philosophically. It’s not just speeds and feeds. It’s about a multi-year future together that both organizations will benefit from and grow as a result.
Introduce the (global) team – personalize the decision
Let the team introduce themselves. Often a large deal will be configured, sold and supported by a significant team, but these people don’t always get face time with the prospect. You can create a template motion graphics into which you place videos of the team members introducing themselves and how they’ll support the initiative pre- and post-sale. This can be tailored with prospect-specific video and messages—we’ve found that larger entities have b-roll video for PR purposes or on YouTube that is great for this purpose. For far-flung teams, have them submit video taken on smartphones. We’ve actually built kits to make results more professional and shipped these worldwide, and also provided remote art direction via Skype to ensure quality results. One of the smartest salespeople I've ever met said, “People like to buy from people they know,” and having the full team introduce themselves and express their commitment can be a difference-maker.
Customer testimonials specific to the prospect – instigate herd behavior
Have your best customers welcome the prospect into the pool. This can be accomplished via tailored case studies (videos can be very powerful) or even a situation-specific message to the prospect team (being careful not to violate confidentiality if applicable). Bet the company decisions are scary and if you can marshal current customers to state the benefits of working with you, and they’re compelling about how they do so, you’ll reap the rewards.
A couple of other thoughts about effective pursuits for enterprise deals
Start with a strategy session. Each bid is a unique opportunity and your relative strengths and weaknesses will differ for each. Get the sales leader for the account together with field marketing and the strategy lead from your agency or shared services group. Map out a plan. Build compelling messages. Make it fun to present and watch.
If you’re giving an in-person presentation, practice it over the span of about a week before the big day. This will enable you to fine tune the messaging and finalize the pitch. If your presentation includes video, this is especially important as you want to get comfortable with the transitions from you to video and back again. For large deals, we usually budget about 10-12 hours of one-on-one sessions with the lead presenter so he/she can recite the pitch from memory if need be (always be prepared if the tech fails).
Figure out how to convert your pursuit packages into something repeatable. Build an asset library. Make some of this into templates (some things just have to be custom, but some can be re-used).
Consider how your show can be shared with people who might not be there for the initial presentation. Should you build a custom website? Use a tool like LookBook? Send to global teams on a USB drive?
Want some more ideas? Have questions? Book a no-obligation consultation on my calendar here, or call me at 203-391-3006.