A young sales rep had spent all weekend preparing for his presentation to the National Audubon Society. He was up against eleven other competitors for a nationwide bird seed contract. He had already submitted his company's proposal and was invited to present the following Monday.
When he arrived at the National Audubon Society, he was escorted in
to a large conference room where, after waiting about 10 minutes, he was
joined with eleven other sales reps from the competing seed
companies. "This was highly unusual," the young rep thought to
himself. Moments later things got even stranger when a well-dressed
gentleman rolled in a long table at the front of the conference room.
The long rolling table had ten birds on it, with a sack over each bird
and only the bird's legs showing.
"May I have your attention please," said the well-dressed gentleman
from the society. "We thank you all for bidding on our nationwide bird
seed contract. Your bids were all so close to another, it was
impossible to choose which vendor to go with. So rather than go through
all twelve of your presentations, we have devised a test to determine
who will win our Nationwide bird seed contract. We would ask that each
of you take a copy of this form, fill out your name and contact
information, along with your company name. Now, beside the numbers one
through ten on the left hand side of the form, we'd ask that you fill in
the common name of the bird, identified by and number and by their legs
only at the front of the conference room."
The young sales rep was confused. All the bird legs looked the same
to him. "Was this some kind of a joke?" he asked himself. He began
to get upset. The more he thought about it, the madder he got. While
the eleven other sales reps went up to the front of the conference room
for a better look at the birds legs, the young sales rep went up to the
well-dressed purchaser now seated at the back of the conference room,
observing the proceeding with a smug smile on his face.
"What kind of a vendor selection process is this?" asked the young
sales rep. "What relevance does telling the difference between birds by
looking at only their legs have to do with one's ability to supply high
quality bird seed at a competitive price? What's next? Bird
calling?" With that the young sales rep threw his blank form down on
the purchaser's desk and proceeded to walk to the front of the
conference room and out the door.
The purchaser was completely surprised. This was a huge contract.
"The nerve of that young upstart!" he thought to himself. But then he
realized that since the supplier's list was so long, he hadn't taken the
time to get to know each of the sales reps by name. As a result he
would have no way of contacting the employer of this young lad to let
them know exactly why their firm had lost his contract. So just as the
young rep had reached the front door of the conference room, the
purchaser called out, "Excuse me sir, what's your name and who do you
The enraged young sales rep, abruptly turned, faced the purchaser,
took a deep breath, put his briefcase on the floor, pulled up his pant
legs and said, "You're so smart, you guess now pal! You guess!"
Moral of the story. True sales professionals know that you've got
to have bird brains to chase RFPs. Unless you help the prospect craft
the RFP you have little chance of winning. Since most RFPs are awarded
to the low cost bid, there is little room for properly positioning your
firm's value anyway. Nine times out of ten it's best just to move on.
So don't end up joining the flock of inexperienced reps flying from one
RFP to another in hopes of just scratching out a living. Have the
courage to spread your wings, chart your own course, carefully select
the prospects you fly with and watch your career soar!
"Use the talents you possess - for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best." - Henry Van Dyke