Much like the human body, a response to a request for proposal (RFP) consists of a number of complex components that carry out specific functions necessary to survive. RFPs give their issuer a chance to compare multiple offers or approaches, and paint a picture of the breadth of current solutions and methodologies. Plus, while everyone gets a fair chance to throw their hat in the ring, it also gives the client an added benefit of leveraging the competitiveness of pricing.
Now what if the bid at stake was $10 million? Generally, the higher the price, the higher the pressure. If your RFP response isn’t received well, then the client or vendor will simply choose one of your vying competitors. The anatomy of a $10M RFP response involves a lot of connectivity and reliance among its content, its writers and its publishing. Here are the essential parts in creating a successful $10M RFP:
Stomach: Trust Your Gut
Not every proposal is something you can win. This can be a very frustrating notion, but RFPs are not all one size fits all. You should take the time to qualify the opportunity before taking any steps forward. Some questions you should consider are:
- Is this tailored to our favor? Or to known competitors?
- Will the level of effort mire down too many of our employees?
- Can we really compete?
- Do we have good odds of winning?
If you believe the opportunity is not only feasible but trust it as an opportunity your team can win, then the next step is to start planning an effective proposal response strategy.
Brain: Create Innovative Strategies
Winning any RFP, big or small, is all about implementing a strong strategy. Before drafting anything, thoroughly read each question. Once understood what’s being asked, you can map out a proper proposal strategy response. People often become stuck on the price riding on the RFP. And if it has a $10M price tag, it’s understandable to become stressed over the details.
If you’re a more visual thinking person, MBO Partners suggest that you separate the RFP content into overarching umbrellas like administrative, legal and content/ format requirements. Try to shuffle these questions around, highlighting the requirements needed in the submission. Pulling the information that makes up the RFP into something more digestible for you as a writer helps to create a content repository aligned with your overall strategy.
Ears: Listen for Opportunities
Be conscious that an RFP’s questions can be inherently biased. If the language of a question favors one approach over another, this could be an indicator that a competitor has already spoken to the client. Be wary of language that hints at bias geared towards a competitor. One way to overcome bias is through education and awareness. A good way to familiarize yourself with RFP bias is to continuously catalog your competition and your differentiators.
Listen for and identify bias. Instead of assuming it’s too late and that you aren’t fit to win, alternatively map out how you can provide a better solution than your competitors.
Eyes: Look the Part
Depending on the RFP, your submission may have to comply with strict formatting requirements, usually rendered in the format of spreadsheets. It’s doubtful that responses in such a format will make you gasp and utter, “what a beaut!” However, in the other camp a lot of RFPs grant the freedom to submit your response in a format of your choosing. If you’re competing for $10M, your response’s content is undoubtedly pivotal in winning, but its presentation is a stakeholder that can’t be ignored. Your response should look the part.
It can be overwhelming to construct a top-notch, professional looking response. From the front cover to the back cover, your response should be eye-catching and easy to read. If it’s being submitted in a hard copy format, you have to take everything into consideration including color, plex, paper stock and binding. This process can be altogether exhaustive and time-consuming, but there are ways to save time while destressing. Mimeo customers, like Iron Mountain, have saved considerable amounts of time while creating professional RFP responses. This can be an opportunity to create capacity among your sales team by using Mimeo for proposal services.
Mouth: Communicate Clearly
When drafting your RFP response it is important to represent accurate content with an active voice. This is essential, as Qvidian reports, because 90 percent of normal, everyday speech is spoken using active voice. When you write in active voice, the words are more direct and clearly state the action being performed by the subject. Content that is written in a passive voice is more difficult to read because decoding passive content requires more effort and attention on behalf of the reader. In turn, this slows comprehension and lowers engagement.
Your response should also communicate in a language that is both simple and concise. Try to avoid drafting your answers like they’ve been literally been taken out of the canned answers pantry. It’s important to find a solution where you can streamline and share your content strategy among your team members. Consider the message you want to send across to the reader and appropriately tweak generic answers. A general rule of thumb to hold yourself to that readers should comprehend what’s written after reading it only once.
Heart: Pen With Passion
Each word you include in your RFP response matters. Focus on what the needs and requirements of the RFP are, along with the positive outcomes or results sought after. You should craft each response like it’s the answer to a $10M question. Write to win every answer. Just be careful to avoid including unnecessary information. Instead, always keep what’s being asked at the forefront.
This includes being strategic in how you answer questions. If it’s a yes or no question, start the answer with just that. Most readers won’t have time to delineate supporting content from the primary answer. You should start by getting to the point of what’s being asked. If the first word doesn’t satisfy their requirements, they’ll simply move on to another vendor’s answer. Substantiate a yes or no answer with supporting content to undercut any weakness and to demonstrate your capabilities and industry knowledge. A good way of doing this is to provide past successes. If permitted, you can attach case studies or reference clients who faced similar issues.
Muscles: Flex Your Executive Summary
Some readers in the reviewing process may not continue past the executive summary. The bulk of RFP answers should be short and concise, but the executive summary and cover letter is the place to be remembered. The executive summary of a proposal should not go over 2 pages in length, starting with a few sentences that establish context and relevance. This is the place where you can’t waver in focus. Strongly target a product, service or approach that you can provide that will solve the client’s pain point. Remember, the answer they need is worth $10M.
Continue this focus by spotlighting the positive outcomes the client can gain by partnering with you. You can back this up by referencing some of your company’s key differentiators. Closing the executive summary is usually the trickiest part, but try to maintain a strong focus on what client requires. Have you been successful in your RFP response experience? Let us know what we’ve missed in our RFP response anatomy!
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