Super-smart resources to help you win
There’s a few things RFP writers want proposal writers to know. In this series, we discuss a few topics that lie at the heart of RFPs and proposal writing to help you look a little deeper into the strategies you use to create winning proposals, as well as how to enhance synergy among the RFP and proposal writer alliances of the world. If you’re new to proposal writing, this is for you too.
In case you’re wondering whether this will be something you’ve already read before, hang in there. At the end of this, you will look at RFPs differently, and maybe then, you will be able to respond to them differently too. FYI, the right understanding, the right RFP management and proposal management software, and the right strategy are the tools you need to win the next big contract.
First, some background…
If an organization has a problem or a target they are not able to meet on their own, they conduct procurement series and allow vendors to bid on the opportunity to fulfill those needs as a contractual supplier.
Vendors receive a document that has a detailed list of client requirements – this is the RFP (or other procurement related document). Then vendors respond to these clients within a specific response period, called a proposal deadline, with strategy to win the project or contract.
You – if you’re the proposal writer – help to represent the vendor as you write the response, and the company or government agency that releases the RFP is the prospective client with whom you’re helping to build a relationship.
Now that you understand the importance of your role in gaining new business and relationship building…
#1. It is called a “deadline” for a reason
Hear us out. Rumor has it that the word “deadline” was based on the phrase “dead line”- a line or phrase used in the prison system. Prisoners were shot if they ever crossed the “dead line.” At the risk of getting too grim, let’s put this into context. When you respond after crossing the due date deadline, you get shot (or eliminated) from bidding. Your proposal response that you worked so hard on is not even considered.
It is very important to respond on time.
Clients send RFPs with the expectation that you will deliver the proposal before the deadline. Clients provide deadlines because they have deadlines too.
It takes a lot of time to read multiple proposals from vendors and decide which offers the best solution, and which vendor actually aligned their response with RFP requirements. Then there are internal deadlines to notify the winner(s). Thus, it is highly favorable for bidders to submit proposals on time and not request for extensions. A good RFP management software with team collaboration tools can help streamline your proposal process.
#2. You need to read the entire RFP before responding to it
We understand. You’re busy. You probably have another proposal already in the queue, and you’ve done this before so you know where to look. Yet, while deadline is important, compliance outweighs other priorities.
Proposal writers often skim through RFPs without devotedly reading. As a result, they miss important compliance factors and with one missed requirement, the vendor that your proposal represents is out of the bid race for reasons that could have been avoided. Either take the time to read each section, especially for federal government RFPs, or purchase the software that will help you parse the RFP faster and more accurately.
#3. You need to understand the requirements before you respond
Storytime: A company in the semiconductor industry sent out a simple RFP for staff augmentation. The project required engineers capable of cabling semiconductors. Semiconductors are very small devices that require the expertise of experienced engineers.
Somehow, one of the vendors who sent a proposal responded without understanding the requirement. The vendor’s proposal did an excellent job of explaining how they were the best partner for wiring and cable TV installation.
Yes! This is a true story!
It’s funny to read, but quite embarrassing to experience as a vendor. Those who lose bids are told, “You did not understand our requirements” or “Your solution had nothing to do with our problem.”
It is very easy to avoid this sort of industry-spread embarrassment. Thoroughly read the RFP – the entire thing.
#4. Presenting no partner is better than a noncompliant one
Clients find proposals less valuable when the partners picked for a bid are noncompliant or improperly validated. It is important to find the right partner when you are partnering to respond to an RFP.
Poor partner selection will cause you to lose the bid or incur damages in the future partnership. If the client identifies that the partner does not comply with some standards mentioned in the RFP, again your proposal will be thrown out.
Even if your vendor is planning to partner with a familiar organization, ensure that they are still up-to-date with all certification and other requirements.
#5. Format the proposal to match the RFP
Poorly formatted proposal responses are the easiest way to be noncompliant or lose the reader’s attention during evaluation. Guess what happens to a proposal that is hard to follow.
Often, poor formatting is the result of scrambling to put together a last-minute response or someone from a technical background writing the proposal. Technical SMEs are often concerned with technical explanation and less about structure.
A poorly formatted proposal reflects poorly on the vendor who sent it. It’s common sense: “That’s a shabby document. A shabby vendor sent it”. Avoid poor formatting and take your time to align the proposal response sections to the RFP sections.
We know this takes time, so get some extra help. Use ready-made proposal templates or a tool to customize each response template based on the requirements of each bid.
When you respond to your next bid, think about the RFP writer and the people who have to read every single proposal submitted. Keep them in mind and we’re sure your proposal will be chosen as a winner.