Request for Proposals (RFPs) are, more than anything else, opportunities: opportunities to partner with a new business, opportunities to show you capabilities, and, ultimately, opportunities to grow your business. In fact, without the ability to submit accurate and engaging RFPs, you lose the ability to be a successful business.
Once you have an RFP in hand, it is your responsibility to craft a response that will turn this opportunity into a reality. But to do this, you must not only follow rules and guidelines of writing a proposal, you must also show that you are competent, that you offer value, and that you are better than the competition.
Below, we’ve shared 6 tips that can help ensure that your RFP response is in the YES pile at the end of the day.
Tip #1: Have a generic template ready to go.
You never know when an RFP is going to land on your desk. You also don’t know what the turnaround time will be–in some cases, you may just have days or weeks to issue your completed proposal. For these two reasons, it is imperative to have a current, proofed proposal boilerplate ready to go. This template should include the following sections:
- A company summary.
- Financial information.
- Your abilities and technical capabilities.
- Product information.
- Your goals.
- How you will achieve your goals.
- Your timeline for achieving your goals.
- Pricing information.
- Contact information.
Some of these sections, such as your contact information, can be cut and pasted directly into each proposal. Other sections, such as your goals for the project, will have to be significantly reworked/tailored based on each RFP.
Tip #2: Read the RFP very, very carefully.
Although all RFPs are similar and follow a similar structure, they are also all different. Reading the document very carefully is the critical first step. While reading, be sure to:
- Note the tone of the document.
- Note the structure of the document.
- Note every question asked
- Take a close look at all specifications
Not only do you want your proposal to show how your business is capable of meeting the specifications and requirements laid out in the RFP, you also want to show that you are familiar with the company, that you have taken the time to learn their needs, and that you understand their mission and philosophy. Focusing on both of these components will separate you from the competition.
Tip #3: Be a good storyteller.
A common mistake that proposal authors make when responding to RFPs is being too dry, too clinical, and too generic. While you should try your hardest to be factual, concise, and professional, you can still make your proposal stand out by using just a few simple storytelling skills.
- Create a narrative arch.
- Craft a powerful tone.
- Share stories.
Tip #4: Remember that presentation matters.
Just as your proposal’s content should be consistent and representative, your proposal’s overall visual appearance should be as well. Do not make design an afterthought. An easy-to-read and good-looking proposal will always do better than a poorly designed proposal with the exact same content. Here are some quick pointers:
- White space is your friend.
- Keep paragraphs short.
- Stay consistent with your brand.
Tip #5: Leave room for negotiations.
It can be tempting to offer all of your best pricing and all of your extras in the initial proposal in order to get your response chosen and in order to move on to the next step in the process. However, starting negotiations with absolutely everything you have to offer doesn’t leave any wiggle room for give-and-take and therefore doesn’t allow the RFP authors to feel like they’ve secured a good deal.
Tip #6: Realize if you are not a good fit.
Just because you have received a RFP does not mean that you should participate in the response. In some cases, your business may simply not be a good fit for the job, and it is critical that you quickly recognize that fact. You might not be a good fit if:
- You cannot meet all of the specifications outlined in the RFP.
- You are not financially secure enough to take on the job.
- You can’t offer the rate or pricing that the company is looking for without putting your business in danger.
- You have the feeling that your business philosophies or ways of operating do not mesh well with the other business.
- You are not able to fully delivery if you awarded.
Passing up a RFP does not always represent a missed opportunity–sometimes it represents avoiding a bad business deal.
What are your thoughts? Do you have additional tips for how to best respond to RFPs? Or do you have a question about finding more success from the proposals you submit? Share with our community by leaving a comment below.
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