Why Responding to RFPs Hurts Your Sales Organization

Updated: Dec 6, 2020


It happens all over the country in organizations every day. A top prospect suddenly emails a salesperson a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) and they immediately forward it to their manager with a note, “We need to throw everything we have at this. This is a real opportunity for us!”

Is it, really?

Why didn’t the salesperson mention this opportunity in his deal discussions with his manager over the past couple of months? Most likely it is because this is a “cold” RFP; one the sales person had no idea was coming. And now it is attached to your optimistic salesperson’s emotions AND pipeline activity.

The Challenge

The sales manager needs the revenue and the salesperson really wants to go after the business. They will both rationalize the fact that even if they don’t win the RFP, they will better position themselves for future business, so it’s worth the effort. Unfortunately, the data does not support this statement. Most RFPs result in 2-3 year contracts. If you do not win the RFP, you will wait 2-3 years to have another opportunity. Most salespeople will not put the time in for something to potentially happen in 2-3 years. And most buyers will not remember the company that finished second or third without a significant change in the relationship.

Empirical Data Over 20 Years Says DON’T RESPOND!

Our historical data compiled for twenty years across three different industries show that when salespeople respond to cold RFPs there is a 91% chance they will lose! Imagine if a car company or a printing company produced 91% of their products incorrectly? Why is it ok for sales to perform this way? The short answer is: IT’S NOT!

You may be thinking, what about the 9% you won? Surely you don’t suggest we never try?

Well, chances are that the few cold RFPs won did not work out very well. Here are five reasons why: