Adopt a CSI Approach — Solve the Problem Behind the Problem With Your Customer

One of the most beneficial things you can do for your company is to help your team change the way they respond to RFPs from your customers.

It’s too easy to go line-by-line through the RFP, come up with a basic solution, submit the bid, and move on to the next RFP. Your competitors are doing that. But, if you truly want to win more work, create additional scope, and generate more revenue, your team needs to re-think how they’re analyzing the customer’s situation.

What’s required for a successful RFP response? Adopting a CSI-like approach to:

  • Find hidden issues not spelled out in the RFP.
  • Identify the problem that is hiding in plain sight.
  • Solve the problem behind the problem for your customer by leveraging your solution for value and impact.

This should be exciting and invigorating for your team to dive into a customer’s situation before your company ultimately proposes a solution. Not only for the financial opportunity, but also for the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with your customer by demonstrating a clear understanding of their situation. This is the path forward to more sustainable revenue by becoming a strategic partner, not just another company bidding on projects.

1. Finding the Hidden Issues Like an Investigator

We’ve all watched an episode of CSI or a similar police procedural show. What if the investigators showed up to the crime scene, took one look around, came up with their conclusion, and submitted their report identifying Suspect C as the perpetrator?

Two things would happen. There wouldn’t be much of a TV show and the characters would be laughed at for a lack of evidence and investigational effort supporting the conclusion.

Why would anyone take this approach in business? Just answering RFPs with a copy and paste of the same solution does not require much effort and it will not produce long-term positive outcomes.

To differentiate your company from the competition, seek to understand what is happening inside the customer’s company that led to them sending out an RFP. Start by finding the hidden issues. Hidden issues could include:

  • A potential merger & acquisition situation.
  • A new regulatory requirement on the horizon.
  • A future resource constraint causing the customer to find a solution now.
  • An internal power battle between multiple departments.
  • A new initiative introduced by the new CEO.
  • A potential change to how the company does business at a fundamental level.

Your team should play the role of investigator pinning information to a literal or figurative evidence board looking at what clues are contained in the RFP that could point you to the hidden issues. Then, your team should collectively review these clues, gather evidence about the hidden issues, and decipher the problem.

2. Identifying the Real Problem the Customer is Trying to Solve

Oftentimes, the customer will not spell out the real problem or the full scope of the problem in the RFP. They are relying on you to identify the problem for them.

Sounds strange, right? How can the customer not know their actual problem? Here’s an analogy to make sense of this situation: the customer can’t see their own golf swing. They’re relying on you to tell them what’s wrong with their swing.

This could be because of blind spots in the company, not being able to fully wrap their arms around the size and shape of the problem, or even not wanting to call out specific teams or individuals as contributing to the problem that needs to be solved.

It’s up to your team to follow the clues, look for patterns and connections to internal and external issues, and continue to drive toward deciphering the full scope of the problem.

What are the key efforts required to fully decipher the problem?

  • Talk to multiple decision-makers at multiple levels in the organization (not just the same person in the same role your team typically talks to).
  • Talk to managers from other departments in the company (e.g. if you’re solving an IT problem, talk to HR as well to understand the full scope of what’s happening in the company).
  • Talk to business partners, vendors, and other service providers about what they’re hearing (seek third-party evidence to gain a deeper understanding of business and political issues in the company).
  • Seek out reliable industry information about current or future market conditions (e.g. follow industry leaders on LinkedIn to see what they’re talking about).

Ultimately, your team should be gathering as much intelligence as possible to shape and form your understanding of what’s truly happening. Then, you can deliver a genuine and comprehensive solution that solves the problem behind the problem for your customer.

3. Presenting the Solution to Solve the Real Problem

In the police procedural TV show, Criminal Minds, there is a scene in each episode where the investigation team declares, “We’re ready to deliver the profile.” This follows a period of time where the team has gathered evidence about the crime, applied their expertise to understand the criminal’s thinking, and considered the hidden issues to better understand how to solve the case and resolve the situation.

The same could be said of your team needing to arrive at the point where you can confidently declare, “We’re ready to deliver the solution.”

What does it look like to deliver a comprehensive solution that addresses the customer’s real problem?

  • Aligned with business and political issues that your team uncovered during discovery.
  • Supports multiple teams within the company to create efficiencies.
  • Can bring diverse teams together to support the full scope of the solution.
  • Can address underlying or hidden issues that helps solves the real problem.
  • Can create cost-savings to address the financial implications of solving the problem.

There is a clear differentiation between simply responding to the RFP with a boilerplate solution. It’s about personalizing the solution in an intelligent, collaborative manner that positions you differently in the market.

When you start seeing and embracing the problem behind the problem to craft your solution, you have a much stronger chance to provide impact instead of just responding to the face-value need presented in the RFP.

Now, you become valuable. Now, you become the trusted partner that the customer sees as resourceful and capable of solving more problems. Now, you’re in position to grab more pieces of scope and larger pieces of scope.

Adopting a CSI Approach Requires Practice and Good Habits

It will take time for your team to adopt a CSI approach when responding to the RFP. A successful RFP response is the product of collaboration and addressing every non-productive habit that your team has developed.

Continue to push your team forward. Challenge their assumptions. Encourage them to spend more time developing multiple paths to connection. And, ensure a clear understanding of the business and political issues that can often be the deciding factor in winning the bid.

Authentic connection, true engagement, thinking deeper about the problem behind the problem, and asking better questions are game-changing behaviors for your team that requires practice to build new, effective habits.

We are available to help you and your team develop the right habits that support a CSI approach to responding to the RFP. Through our proprietary methodology, The Connection Process, we’ll help your company leverage connections to create faster, more sustainable revenue.

We’ll help your team identify hidden issues, solve the problem behind the problem, and present a comprehensive solution. In the process, we’ll help you drive scope creation and accelerate deal flow to continue growing. This is a more sustainable and profitable approach versus just marching through RFPs with no regard for what the customer is really saying.

To receive business coaching on our proven approach, contact us today to discuss your situation. Let’s work together to identify the best path forward to solve the problem behind the problem with your customer.


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