If the thought of putting together another RFP sends you into a tail spin, it’s time to change your mindset. You can work ahead to gather most of the information so you’re not rushing around at the last minute trying to meet a deadline. In other words, think of RFP as an acronym for Ready for Proposal rather than a Request for Proposal.
Here are a few tips to make the RFP process easier and increase your chances of winning a contract:
- Read carefully. Read the guidelines carefully and address all questions and requirements. A typical proposal contains an executive summary, statement of need, project description, information about the organization, project schedule, budget and conclusion. Leaving information out may disqualify your firm from the RFP process.
- Be concise and clear. Consider the reader who may be reading 30 or more RFPs. He/she doesn’t want to sift through page after page of your company’s description when a few paragraphs will do. Don’t be redundant; keep sentences to the point and use confident language.
- Have a template ready. Much of the information can be prepared in advance – company background, capabilities, staff roles and responsibilities, etc. Spend time upfront to create a template. This will save time later when you develop a customized response for the remaining information.
- Stress what makes you unique. Focus on what makes you better than competitors, your specific thoughts on the RFP project and how you are uniquely qualified to succeed. Discuss your firm’s accomplishments, awards, and any results you’ve achieved for other clients. Showcase examples that are like those faced by the company, but don’t exaggerate your resume, results you’ve delivered, staff skills and credentials, etc.
- Be visual. Use graphics and other images, stay away from long chunks of copy, use bullets and other tricks to break up copy. The key is to enhance readability.
- Don’t give away too much. You may be tempted to lay out a strategy and provide details but be careful not to disclose too much. The customer may ask your competitors if they can also provide similar services/benefits, which can diminish your position.
- Avoid pricing details. The more pricing information you provide, the more the customer can negotiate it down. Offer an overall amount in specific categories rather than line-by-line pricing. Don’t make it easy for them to know your net margin.
- Don’t quote your lowest price. The procurement department will want to negotiate further cost savings so make sure you leave room to cut your profit. Also, don’t overpromise or underestimate costs to win a contract.
- Respond on time and proofread. Make sure you’ve answered all questions and the document is free of typos and errors. Submit your response on time and in the requested format and keep a copy for your files.
Now that you’re ready for proposals, good luck!