A Request for Proposal that an organization (government agency or large enterprise) creates to mention the specification of their project. The RFP explains the customer requirements and the evaluation criteria on which the vendor’s proposal will be assessed.
According to Ganesh Shankar of RFPIO, the chance of securing an RFP is under 5 percent. Yet companies continue to do so. Why? Because responding to an RFP and securing the project means business, it means profit. Therefore, it’s crucial that you and your team waste no time or energy in responding to RFPs. In short, you want to maximize your opportunity.
To do this, both you and your team need to know exactly what you’re doing and when responding to an RFP. Only then can you increase the probability of securing one for your company over the competition. Each response to an RFP will be different, so there is no one way to reply to one. As such, we have created a set of basic guidelines designed to set you on the right track and a winning RFP.
Understanding a Request for Proposal (RFP)
If you’re new to this, no worries, we’ll get you up to speed in no time. When you make a response to an RFP, you’re telling the prospective client that you can satisfy their needs. You’ve got what it takes to complete their project, and do it within the time frame specified. In basic terms, the issuer of the RFP has a project they’d like complete and are looking for the perfect vendor to do it, and you want to be that vendor.
ACME Animation is eager to work with you and your staff in addressing the challenges presented in the RFP’s Executive Summary.
Now, say that you’ve read the RFP, and you know you can do this, but knowing that is not going to be enough. Here is the thing: You know you can do this, and do it well, but the prospective client has no idea of your capabilities. So, think of your proposal as a persuasive essay in a way. You’re in it to win it, so you must persuade them to choose your company.
Since the issuer of the RFP doesn’t know that you are capable, you’ll have to step up to the plate and demonstrate your value, your worth. For instance, can you increase the ROI or return of investment for the client? If so, then let them know. Here, you’re showing the prospective client that you ‘get’ them, you relate to them, and you understand their company and the needs presented in the RFP. Remember, the client is handing off a nice sum of money for this project, and they want to be certain you are aware of them and what they do.
If you have no idea how to persuade someone in writing, it may not hurt to review articles that relate the art of persuasive writing, such as here. While a proposal is not a persuasive essay, much can be gleaned from these articles, such as how to target your audience and persuade them to select you above your competition.
How to Respond to the RFP
Your essential steps to a good RFP response are:
Make Sure this RFP is for You
Drawing up a response to an RFP can take up to 2 days or more, depending on the project you’re bidding on. If you and your team don’t take the time to look into RFP, you may waste those days and accidentally passing up an RFP that would suit you better. To help you out, we’ve outlined a few considerations to make before you settle on a certain RFP:
- Does the project suit you, and what can you do?
- Are you familiar with this type of project, or is this your first time?
- Are you already familiar with this industry, or are you new to it?
- Check out the deadlines and project milestones, can you meet them without stressing?
Do you know what the issuer of the RFP requires, and can you meet those requirements? In other words, you’re going through the RFP’s, looking for the perfect fit, where both you and the prospective client will be satisfied with the result. You only want the RFP that won’t overwhelm your current resources, one where you absolutely know you’ll be able to complete on time and do it well. After all, you’re trying to build a good reputation in the industry, so you must know that you’ll be able to complete the project. For instance, below, ACME Animation has read and understood a requirement of the RFP.
They have written a brief and concise statement concerning the requirement:
Read and understood. ACME Animation accepts the time frame of the 10, one-hour tutorials to be completed within a 5-month time frame. Each of the 10 tutorials is to be one hour in length, have a monochrome color pallet, and include title and credits.
Do You Completely Understand the Content
First, take a good look at the introduction of the RFP. Here, you’ll get a good idea of what is expected of you and your team. Next, review the components and requirements. Be honest here, no matter how fat, plump and juicy the payoff is, if you can’t understand the components or meet their requirements, why bother? In the following example, ACME Animation does indeed understand the content of the RFP and has included a statement as to why they are the best.
As you can see, we’ve a solid history of creating video tutorials for some of the largest corporations in America. Our customer satisfaction score has been consistent, staying between 8.9 out of a possible score of 10. We firmly believe that it is our clients who make us who we are, and are determined to continue providing the best Animated tutorials possible. Indeed, our customers define who we are; they are the measure of our success. We are your vendor of choice due to our customer-centric approach.
What are the Deliverables and Relevant Dates
In an RFP, deliverables are items that must be delivered to the client. These deliverables can be tangible, such as a bearing wall, or they can be intangible such as a digital project plan. In short, a deliverable is anything a client asks for, and you promise to deliver to them. Take time to discuss the deliverables and milestones listed in the RFP with your team. Examine the acceptance criteria for each deliverable closely so you can be certain your deliverable has the criteria necessary for acceptance. Do you have what it takes to deliver and do it on time? If so, then you can now move on to the rest of the RFP.
ACME Animation agrees to provide Thompson Services International, with a team of 7 highly trained animators in order to complete their 10, 1-hour training videos to be completed 5 months from the date of the agreement.
Read the Entire RFP
Reading an RFP might not be the most pleasant task in the world, but it’s necessary. Keep in mind, even though you are secure in the idea that you have what it takes to complete the project, know what the main deliverables are, as well as crucial dates, as the document itself might just have deliverables within that were not listed on the deliverables list.
Also, when going over the requirements, make special notes of any penalties involved if you make a misstep, or do not deliver on time. Pay particular attention to the issuer’s award process as well. Here, they’ll describe in detail how each proposal will be evaluated, along with the contract, which will be awarded. Plus, this is the time for you and your team to formulate your ways and means, to come up with questions to ask the issuer, all within your response date.
Gather Your Team
Now that you’re aware of the basics, have read through it, and are still confident that you can achieve the results the issuer wants, it’s time to get down to brass tacks: Assemble your team and delegate responsibilities. Always remember to include one person who is responsible for seeing that every member of the team completes their part. If you don’t have a team, then it’s up to you to ensure you assess the content and create a time table for yourself.
Don’t Forget the Visuals
Never downplay the power of visual communication in your response. Visuals are a great way to spice up your document as well as back up your claims. Indeed, visuals can go a long way in winning that RFP. If this is your first response, then know that visuals include the use of bulleted lists, graphs, charts, and tables. Also, dividing your document up with neatly placed headings and subheadings will create a professional, easy to read document. Don’t forget your company’s logo, as well as photos of those who will be working on your team with you. Call-out boxes are not required but can add a nice touch to the overall document.
The Editing Process
Once you and your team are confident that you’ve got a document you’re satisfied with, the next task is editing. Don’t be afraid to cut out distracting information, or unnecessary imagery. Remember the purpose of the response, and keep centered on 100 percent compliance with the RFP, anything less makes the response document useless. If they didn’t ask the question, don’t answer it, stick to the program.
Here are a few more considerations to watch out for during the final edit:
- This is about the issuer, not the client.
- Go through each paragraph, ensuring that the response benefits the client
- Answer all their inquiries, never leave a mandatory item out
- Keep responses brief and concise
- Keep the language simple, no techy talk or jargon
- Use the language of their industry, not yours
- Hire a professional proofreader, if possible
Free RFP Response Templates
Get collection of free templates from our site:
RFP Response Template (Word)
RFP Response Sample
RFP Response Template for Information Technology
Subject Matter Expert (SME)
The better your SME’s, the better chance you have of locking down that project. Top SME’s are loaded with all the information you’ll need, and if they don’t currently have that knowledge, they’ll go through hoops to get it. These are the professionals who provide the proper information to your team regarding the proposal, and it’s that information you’ll use to craft a proposal that will persuade the issuer to choose your company above the competition. A good SME has initiative, is proactive, and never settles for second best. A good SME knows that the business thrives on the profits brought in by such projects, so they always put the RFP response first.
Given below are the tips you can consider:
- When it comes down to persuading them to pay attention to you, it always helps to state the problem first, then presenting your solution.
- Incorporate their industry lingo in your proposal. Show them that you can speak their language. This, in turn, will help to generate trust in your abilities to meet their needs.
- Never respond to an RFP using intuition alone. All responses should be based on logic, facts, and being honest with yourself, whether you can or cannot.
- Never use the same basic proposal outline. Always keep it fresh by composing a new proposal for each new RFP you come across. For instance, a proposal from a foundation will differ greatly from a proposal to a government RFP.
- The ability of a group to work cohesively together as a team when responding to an RFP is critical. There can be no weak links.
- Your finished proposal should include what you will accomplish, and a detailed outline of how you intend to accomplish it.
- While going over the RFP, being honest with yourself can hold off a world of pain. For instance, take note of the key deliverables. Can you actually deliver them, and on time? If you cannot, then simply admit it and move on to the next RFP on the list. After all, the reputation of a business is everything, and if you win this project and can’t complete it as promised, you risk damage to your reputation.
- Don’t load your proposal with high tech gibberish. Keep in mind that your issuer may have no idea what those 10 dollar words mean. Just lay it all out in plain English.
- No one on the team wants to rush a deadline. To do so would do nothing but to risk creating a sloppy mess. Right from the start you and your team should be aware of the deadline. The process should be marked by milestones that should be completed and completed on time. The process should strive to be a smooth one.
- In the proposal, show the issuer that you are more than capable of delivering what they want.
- Crafting a compelling proposal is key when it comes to persuading the issuer to choose you over the competition. Keep in mind that it’s about the issuer and not you. Your proposal revolves around the prospective client, and what you can do for them.
As you can see, composing a response to RFP is a complex issue. While not all responses to RFP’s are the same, they all utilize the same logic and process. When you incorporate the basics, such as answering all mandatory questions, showing the client how your proposal is more beneficial to them than the competition, using jargon-free language, All that you need do, is to incorporate your own company’s data. As such, both new and seasoned response teams find it advantageous to use a proposal template to aid in the organization and crafting of the response proposal.
By utilizing a proposal template specific to RFP’s, you can easily see where you left off, make margin notes to see what to add, and keep the proposal neat and tidy while you develop it. Remember, no two RFPs will be alike, so follow the basic considerations, while integrating your company’s own data in response to the needs and wants of the issuer, edit, and proofread.