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5 Fast Steps to Responding to an RFP: Request for Proposal

RFPs | Request for Proposals

Many entrepreneurs quickly switch from excitement to dread when they finally get the call to do an RFP: Request for Proposal. The call for a proposal usually means big dollars and a big deal. Of course, it also means Rattled, Frenzied, and Panicked once the initial elation wears off.

SO, how do you successfully create one? Here are my top 5 secrets:

  1. Meet the DecisionMakers – To fully understand their specific needs, you must have phone and in-person meetings even if it requires a plane trip at your own expense. Relying solely on print communication overlooks the nuances of working together.
  2. Don’t Become The Dreaded “Middle Bidder.” – As you’re aware, most firms require a minimum of 3 bids.  You don’t want to be the bidder that is there just to fulfill their compliance role. Instead, ask about your competitors, their requirements, and who is at the top of their list. If it appears you are a very distant third, it might make sense to bow out.
  3. Follow the Letter of the Proposal – If the deadline is 12:01 pm on Friday, get it there on time. If the bidding firm wants 6 copies, submit the copies. You get the picture. BUT, I have seen many companies fail to win the business over a simple compliance factor.
  4. Don’t Let Form Overwhelm Function – Your proposal has a purpose – to provide the value, results, or benefits you’ll bring. How it looks is important, but not to the exclusion of the content. I know one firm that submitted a 2,000 page proposal that included 52 spreadsheets and was hand designed and delivered. Oh, and after 6 months, the bidder was told via a short email, that they didn’t make the cut. Ouch!
  5. Weigh the Real Cost of Bidding – RFP’s take enormous amount of time. Is this the right time for you to devote right now? Do you have another project that you can get easily without this effort? Can you use boilerplate material that you’ve already created? Answer these questions to determine if the reward is worth the risk of the effort.

Let me know about your RFP efforts in the comments below

 

Image courtesy of patpitchaya / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
3 Comments
  1. Oh, thanks for letting us know. RFPs are a tough animal and it makes sense to delegate and get help when you’re going for it. Otherwise, you end up inhaling your own fumes!

  2. Hi Liz,
    Great to have spoken to you. Your insights for RFP’s are very helpful and thanks so much for posting them.
    Looking forward to staying in touch.
    Best
    Sue

  3. Hi Liz; Love your insight into RFP’s. As the former Purchasing Director for the City of San Diego, I’ve been on the other side of that RFP process – actually issuing and evaluating them. Your points are good, although government RFP’s usually throw in a few more layers, just for fun! Another suggestion, get feedback after the process. Even if you didn’t get this job, they will often provide a debrief and share where you fell short and how your proposal might be stronger the next time. Won’t help you get this job, but definitely helps with the next one. Thanks, Tammy

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