RFPs when the main POC is Purchasing

8 Jul

What does your company do when an RFP shows up at Corporate and the main point of contact is not the business user or decision maker but the purchasing agent?

Here’s the situation one of the Inquisix members found themselves in. They’re new to their company while the inside sales manager is experienced. A prospect sent in an RFP to sales@company.com that nobody expected but inside sales pounced on. With the blessing of the VP of Sales (who manages both inside and outside), the inside team ran with the RFP. This blog posting is not about inside vs outside turf battles as regular readers know I’m a big proponent of inside sales. Rather it is solely about the opportunity costs of responding to RFPs.

RFPs take a lot of energy to answer. Big companies have RFP teams and knowledgebases to facilitate the RFP response. But every RFP is different and the questions not always understood. And small companies don’t have the resources to spend chasing RFPs that (maybe) have no chance of closing. In either case, why expend the energy?

So this company decided the only course of action was to follow the RFP instructions exactly and not talk to any one except the purchasing agent. The field rep protested that this was a waste of time and that any prospect expecting to seriously consider the solution would have the business users engaged. Otherwise, it was simple price shopping against a vendor the user had already picked out. The inside manager felt that going around the purchasing agent was the kiss of death.

What does your company do? Who makes the decision to respond to an RFP when the main POC is purchasing? Do you respond without question? Do you go around the purchasing agent?

My answer – you ask the purchasing agent to schedule a 30 minute call with the business users to review the proposal and clarify all the answers. If the purchasing agent declines then you have very little chance of winning. That leaves your choice of either not responding or only responding to the pricing with a low-ball to hurt your competitor.

What’s your answer?


5 Responses to “RFPs when the main POC is Purchasing”

  1. Trish Bertuzzi July 9, 2008 at 6:18 am #

    Michael, I like your answer to the question very much. An alternative would be to just ask a very direct question to the purchasing agent.

    Question – “I received your RFP and thank you for considering us. Let me ask you a very direct question…where are you in your decision making process? I certainly don’t want to waste your valuable time if we are late to the game. Your guidance would be much appreciated.”

    Just ask….they will tell you what you need to know and then you can determine what your next steps should be.

    Thanks for making me think like a salesperson so early this morning!

  2. Michael Kreppein July 9, 2008 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks for the early morning thoughts! I guess I’d be worried that the purchasing agent, who has a job to get the best price and has no relationship with you, would not give a frank answer. They’d say something like, “We have not made any decisions yet, we were recommended to you and you should decide if you want to respond.” They may not even know if another vendor is the prohibitive favorite.

  3. Geoff Alexander September 19, 2008 at 10:45 pm #

    I agree with Mike, that you are probably being “shopped” by the purchasing agent. You should begin the process by calling high in the company, prefereably to a CXO, and discuss the intiative. I’ve got some great techniques on how to do this in my blog at http://www.alextrain.com/inside-sales-telesales-tips-blog/bid/5564/RFP-Hazards-Are-you-being-shopped-by-Purchasing-Agents-Here-s-how-to-fix-it I’ve been a Purchasing Agent myself, so know the turf. Go get the business, but resist starting with the Buyer.

  4. Michael Kreppein September 22, 2008 at 6:55 pm #

    The comment that really got me in your post is, “I used to drive those poor salespeople through hoops, and none of them ever bothered calling my Program Manager (who made most of the real decisions). If they had, there’s a very good chance they could have swayed the Program Manager to change the decision, provided they had superior solutions.” The sales rep has lost the sale and didn’t call back to the Program Manager? Probably because they didn’t know who the PM was in the first place!


  1. Bookmarks about Inside - January 6, 2009

    […] – bookmarked by 5 members originally found by littlesis9 on 2008-12-09 RFPs when the main POC is Purchasing http://inquisix.com/blog/2008/07/08/rfps-when-the-main-poc-is-purchasing/ – bookmarked by 3 […]

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