A&E marketing and business development guest post: Rules are meant to be broken

Is your firm doing everything it can to win the RFP against your competitors?

This is the tenth post in Deltek’s A&E marketing and business development blog series.  Expert David Stone, founder and President of Stone and Company, talks about how breaking the rules can help your firm gain the clients they’re after.  With this insight (backed by Deltek Vision CRM and the integrated suite of Vision marketing solutions), Deltek’s goal is simple: To help your firm win more work! Enjoy.  To learn more about Deltek Vision CRM, check out this demo.

Rules are meant to be broken

(or at least bent)

Most RFPs are careful to forbid you from speaking with the members of the selection committee and then go on to lay out a few other rules of the game as well.

There are some real advantages to breaking the rules, the biggest of which is that it might help you win. Let’s be clear – I’m in favor of getting all the unfair advantage that’s available!

Your first step to bad boy status (and just maybe winning the project) is to read the RFP carefully. Very often there will be language that lays out the rules, but then there’ll be a statement to the effect that, ‘notwithstanding all these rules, we get to choose who we want anyway.’ In my books, when that statement is included, all’s fair in love and RFPs.

Let’s take that rule about not speaking with the selection committee. At the very least, call or write simply to introduce yourself, let them know that you will be submitting a proposal and are looking forward to dealing with them.

You never know, you just might gain some insight into their thoughts or feelings about the project. If someone does agree to speak with you, don’t spend your time selling your firm to him or her. Instead, probe for their thoughts about the project. Listen carefully to what they want to talk about. Begin by asking some probing questions, then spend most of your time listening to the answers. You’re likely to make a good impression with your listening skills.

But it’s not just committee members who can be useful. Once upon a time I was helping a firm chase a transit hub project. The rules clearly stated that we were not to contact anyone on the selection committee. But one day I was doing some reconnaissance around the area where the project was to be built and came across the city’s temporary transit center – a big parking lot with a collection of single-wide trailers where the buses connected and turned around. In the middle of the parking lot, directing traffic and looking very stressed, was the Transit Supervisor. At her next break I offered to buy her coffee. Over the next 15 minutes I gained more insight into the issues surrounding that project than could ever have been gleaned from the RFP or the ‘official’ sources. All for the price of a much appreciated cup of coffee.

A few days later I got a call from the guy coordinating the RFP, who rapped my knuckles for bending the rules. I apologized profusely (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) and we went on to win the job.

Always check the rules. Then think about the advantages and consequences of bending or breaking them. Yes, it can be risky. But if you can win some truly valuable insight, or make a positive impression during your conversations, that risk may well be worth it.

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About Jon Bornstein

Jon Bornstein manages Deltek's marketing in the A&E industry across North America. His job is to ensure that firms understand the many ways they can drive business value using Deltek purpose-built solutions.
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