In April, I wrote about how buyers attempt to control the purchasing process through the use of spreadsheets, ROIs and RFPs. When handled properly, these tools present an opportunity to have meaningful discussions with HR and benefits managers. Of course, it would be great if buyers would just forgo these methods and work with only you on providing a solution. However, "when going out to bid" is inevitable, what can you do to differentiate yourself?

The tool I am about to talk about is not new. I was first introduced to the concept in the late '80s by one of the best proposal managers I have ever worked with. I have used it repeatedly, in several different industries, since then. The results for me and my sales teams have been excellent. It seems that with each new generation of sales people the concept must be learned anew.


Introducing the hero maker

I'm not sure where the name came from, but the idea is to make the HR or benefits manager a hero in the selection and purchasing of a new product or service for their organization. In short, the hero maker is a pre-defined RFP ready-made for the HR or benefits manager. And, if done properly, it is ready-made for you to create an RFP response quickly and with the best possible light on you and your business. Why would someone want to use this tool? Consider the following:

* Time: HR and benefits managers (and their executive sponsors) never have enough time in the day. They are almost always short on time and resources.

* Purchasing expertise: Most SMBs don't have dedicated resources to manage the purchasing process. It is left to the HR team to own the process, most of whom have little experience in purchasing technology. What they do have is knowledge about what they need and where their pain is. This is important to consider when creating your own hero maker.

* Looking good: This is the hero part. Everyone wants to do a good job and be recognized for it. The hero maker makes up for the lack of time and purchasing expertise and puts them and their organization on the fast track to a successful project.

The hero maker is a Word document. Simply search and replace the company name, change the dates, add their company and project information and it's ready to send out to vendors. Quite often though, buyers will make it their own by adding questions and other personal touches.

Essentially, the hero maker has three main components: 1) standard RFP language; 2) company and project information; and 3) the RFP questions. The first part includes items like project timing, inquiries, confidentiality, non-contractual relationship, RFP preparation costs, etc. The second part is the buyer's company and project overview. The third and last part is where your work comes in; the sections that have the requirements and related questions. It is critical that you do two things when preparing these sections. First, you must capture the buyer's needs clearly and concisely. And, second, you must ask the questions in such a way that your answers will stand out.

This concept has been used in sales for a long time. The advent of technology has virtually formalized the use of the concept, but the core benefit remains the same. If you're not using a hero maker you probably should, because your competition is most likely doing so. If interested, I'm glad to share a hero maker with you.

Lamb is VP and group head of the EbixBenergy business unit at insurance software company Ebix Health. Reach him at

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