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Sales Training RFPs

I want to share with you some more of my recent experience and related opinions regarding sales training vendors and RFPs.*  (See my May 23rd post about RFPs.  If you haven’t read it and are interested in how sales training vendors—arguably world-class experts in managing RFP response strategies—reacted to one RFP, you should.) 

Before I go into where they generally fall down when responding to our clients’ RFPs, you should know that most of the vendors that ESR targets for our clients’ long lists respond quickly and competently.  They’re a pleasure to work with.

What transpired and my opinion:

  • One vendor said to me, “If we can’t set the decision criteria, we don’t want to play.”  I understand the thought process here.  They don’t want to be column fodder in some vendor evaluation spreadsheet, where the winner has already been decided and it isn’t them.  Here’s the way I see it: They can’t meet the decision criteria and are doing their best to employ a (way too early and mishandled) flanking strategy.  There is another point: It’s an insult to a prospect who has invested considerable time and money in a requirements definition and RFP to have a vendor refuse to believe it was done above board, objectively and fairly. 

  • Another vendor—one with a leading brand—arbitrarily copied and pasted content from their website into the RFP response.  I wish I could share with you the document our client received.  You wouldn’t believe how unprofessional this came across.  Our client was appalled. There was absolutely no correlation between what an RFP question was and the vendor’s pasted response.  In this case, a salesrep was probably responsible for the RFP response and corporate made the mistake of entrusting this person with representing that company. 

  • One vendor’s proposal that resulted from another RFP had fees and costs that were so high, we thought they had made a mistake. I got a phone call from our client who shared with me the fees he was quote for rebuilding their sales process and customizing training material.  I literally almost fell off my chair.  My client felt that the vendor was attempting to take advantage of them since they’re quite large, with a significant global operation.  That’s not something you want a significant sales prospect to feel about you.  I called the CEO of vendor’s company and related what had transpired.  The vendor recovered, but I can only wonder what would have happened if I didn’t intervene.

Don’t conclude from this post that you shouldn’t go through the RFP process when evaluating sales training programs.  That would be a mistake.  My advice is this:  Take vendor evaluation and selection very, very seriously.  It’s so incredibly easy to get wrong, and your job literally depends on getting it right.   

*Disclosure: You probably know by now that my firm, ES Research Group, among other capabilities, assists companies in evaluating and selecting sales training companies as well as managing sales performance improvement initiatives.


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