Let's say you get an email from a potential customer (or even an existing one) asking for a quote for your products and services. The email specs out what they want, so you send them a quote and it's a done deal, right? Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!

My favorite sales guru Michael Pedone of SalesBuzz.com points out getting an RFQ just means that somebody in that firm is somewhat interested in what you're offering. You've got no answers to these important questions:

  • If it's from a new prospect, is the requester the decision-maker?
  • If it's from a current customer, is the requester still the decision-maker?
  • What's the priority of the purchase and will it remain at the priority?
  • Is there a competitor in the account who'll undercut whatever you quote?
  • Does the customer actually need what they've scoped out in the RFQ?

Because you don't know the answers, it's incredibly stupid just to email a quote. Instead, you need two things:

  1. Information about what's going on in the account, so you can adapt your selling efforts appropriately.
  2. A personal (i.e. not just email trading) relationship with the decision-makers and stakeholders.

So, rather than responding with a quote, pick up the phone to let them know you've received their request and want to ask a few questions first to make sure what you have to offer will be the right fit for what they really need. Here's an example:

  • You: "Hi Joe, this is Fred with Acme. The reason for this call is that I received your email request for pricing on potrezebies and I wanted to ask you a few quick questions to make sure our line of potrezebie solutions are a good fit for you. Would that be OK?"

If your client is difficult or impossible to reach on the phone, you can put the same request in an email like so:

Subject: RE: Request for Quote
I got your email request for pricing on potrezebies.  Would it be possible for me to ask you a few quick questions to make certain our line of potrezebie solutions is a good fit?
We could trade emails on this, but I find it's quicker to do this on the phone. We'll only need about 10 minutes.  When would be a good time for you?
Acme Potrezebie Company

Please note that you're much better off, though, trying to make the call.  In most cases, the prospect will take you call because he or she has already indicated an interest, so you're not making a cold call.

Anyway, now that you've gotten the prospect's attention, you can ask discovery questions to uncover what problems they are looking to solve with your solution.

You can also ask qualifying questions so that you can identify and/or confirm their role in the decision making and approval process, as well as whether they're looking at competitors.

Pedone says that using an RFQ to spur a conversation will both increase your sales win rate and improve your relationship with that client. "You will be viewed as a real person who sought first to understand rather than someone who simply wanted a quick sale," he explains.