Companies are usually trying to find the strategy that will bring them the best possible results, no matter what they are doing - and an RFP process is no different. But, unfortunately, there are not so many choices when it comes down to deciding how to deal with an RFP (request for proposal) - it all comes down to you either answer it or ignore it.
None of these choices are good for the company. If you choose to answer every possible RFP that you receive, you will end up losing so much valuable time that you could have spent improving business on another end.
On the contrary, if you choose not to answer the RFPs, due to the lack of time (or whatever reason), you are also closing doors to many potential corporations and business opportunities.
The golden key is to find the middle between zero to everything. So, before explaining what you can do to increase sales with RFPs (requests for proposals), we will explain why none of these approaches is the best choice (actually creating a good RFP is a form of a sales pitch).
Quantity over Quality
The best approach to the overall bidding process and the best approach to RFPs if you are looking for concrete opportunities to increase your proposal win rate is quality over quantity.
Some companies fear they will miss a great opportunity if they don’t answer every RFP they receive. But, on the other hand, some of them have experiences where business proposals that didn’t sound appealing at first turned out to be the deal of the year.
Because of this, companies decide to answer every RFP - after all, getting a job and having a constant workload is something the companies strive for daily. So in a case where you have chosen to reply to every RFP, you actually don’t need a strategy at all. At least you need a numerous proposal team to rely on.
The thing is that if you are already replying to everyone, the strategy would be insufficient. Also, it may sound like a good idea to answer every RFP, but if the winning rate is too low, the RFP proposal writing team will lose motivation. Simply, people tend to lose their interest in something where there are no visible results.
This “strategy” will be very time-consuming. The team will put more effort into answering as many RFPs as possible rather than pointing that energy into conveying and creating an exceptional, high-quality RFP response. Remember - quality before quantity.
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Choosing the complete opposite of the aforementioned approach would be not to answer any of the RFPs received. Extremes like this and the previous one are not good for a company in any possible scenario.
The issue here is that many companies can be easily discouraged. They can spend a lot of time proposing, only to realize they are not competitive and cannot win. Also, the shallow win rate in the past can make companies opt out of this process.
By choosing to stay out of the RFP bidding, the company has absolutely no competitive advantage and chance of getting a great job opportunity. So, short-term speaking, yes, you may save some time and resources, but you are damaging the company in the long term.
What Is In the Middle?
This question is not easy since it is tough to find a middle between these two approaches. However, you could follow some tips and tricks to try to create the best RFP strategy for your business.
Different businesses will have different strategies, and that is completely normal. Because of this, there is not a universal strategy that can be defined and applied to all companies. Even within the same industry, company A's work may not be the best solution for company B. Even the first step in writing a response - the cover letter - will be differently written by both of these companies.
Here we bring you five things that can be found on the road to creating the best working strategy for your company (listed in no specific order). By following these, you can create and execute a great project plan.
Certain RFP types are available and sent only to a limited number of companies (closed bid). However, more common bid types are open and invited bids. Sometimes, a company issuing RFP will do that in a public place, like publishing it on a portal or their website. A personal invite will not follow this to your inbox.
Once you understand how this works, you should be proactive and start searching for potential RFPs that could sound interesting to you. You can even send inquiries to your prospective client to determine whether they have in mind issuing an RFP any time soon. This will allow you to prepare yourself for the bidding process on time.
Several websites can ease up this proposal process for you because they specialize in gathering all the published RFPs in one place. However, these websites don’t have the capacity to list every single RFP that’s out in the air, but it is an excellent start. In addition, however, these websites will significantly reduce the workload of the proposal team.
Companies need to understand that building long-term relationships with their partners and nurturing them is what can take them a long way. Reaching a point where you have received an invited bid takes a lot of effort and hard work long before receiving that email in your inbox.
Sales and marketing teams have identified this and started working on finding prospective clients and forming a relationship with them so that it can pay off in the future. By having this proactive mindset, you will create opportunities long before the potential client creates the project.
Capture management is very tightly connected to the RFP process since it is supposed to gather information from the market, analyze what the market needs, and then drive the company to that position.
This way, the capture management is working on changing the company's image on the market, making it very desirable even before a specific RFP is issued. In addition, the company is putting a certain “high quality” filter on its name to ensure that only the quality RFPs will reach their inbox.
This is the opposite side of the same coin - proactiveness. Again, this might be an indirect way of creating opportunities, but building a strong brand image can be very time-consuming.
Building a brand is not only having a good marketing strategy - it is also about creating good relations with your business partners. You never know what can bring you profit in the future.
If you are unsure of how it should be done, consider hiring an external SME (subject matter experts) or a proposal manager. Both of them are highly trained to deal with every part of the RFP, this one included.
Yes, you have read it right - you need to learn how to reject the RFPs that you will most likely not win or benefit from. However, when you receive an RFP directly to the mailbox, it would be highly inappropriate to ignore it (in case you don’t want to bid) or give a proposal just because there might be a chance to win.
Actual winning in the bidding process doesn’t always mean that the company will benefit from it. If the company is occupied with several large projects and wins a relatively small bid, the case is that there will be no benefits for the company itself. Instead, it will spend too much time and effort focusing on something that doesn’t bring as much profit.
Having the big picture in mind is good advice to follow when deciding whether to give a business proposal or reject the bid. Other than this, you should know your capabilities, so you need to ask whether the company can carry out the project on time or not.
Profitability is already mentioned, but it has to be compared to the overall profitability of the company and how much the company will benefit from it. Looking only at the project's profitability means nothing if you don’t compare it to bigger data.
Rejecting an opportunity to participate in the bidding process doesn’t have to be seen as a failure, rather as a learning opportunity. For example, sometimes, a company will reject an RFP simply because they don’t have the time or capacity to deal with it, not because they don’t want to.
It is crucial to identify the reasons behind this decision - did you have the chance to win, but did you not have enough time to deal with the proposal? In that case, your capacities are very likely limited and require you to work on expanding them.
The other situation might be that you didn’t have a chance to win at all. In this case, you need to ask yourself what criteria you didn’t match and why. Then, if those areas are important for your business growth, make sure to work on them in the future.
Almost every business process can be automated so that the RFP process can be too.
Proposal Automation and software will ease data collection and make organization and task management easier to carry out.
Some more advanced software is capable of analyzing whether someone from the other end has opened your RFP proposal, read it, how much time you have spent reading, etc. This will feed you with valuable data you can use in the future to improve your proposal content.
This data can tell you which parts of your entire proposal are the most “boring” ones - the pages that the potential client tends to skip reading. You can change or improve only those in the future proposals, and then you can follow the results through the software.
One note: Data tracking is possible only if the proposal is submitted via the provided link. If the proposal is being sent as PDF via email, this data will not be available.
The most comprehensive RFP software is designed to simplify the process for both parties - the issuer and the bidder. Every communication should be done through the software. This way, it is easier to track the status of the project and all changes that are being made.
Writing an RFP and drafting a response to an RFP is a time-consuming process, and with the use of software, you can make it more efficient. Instead of looking for specific tools that will help you in the meantime, you can install all-in-one software.
This RFP software should be capable of advanced data collection and storage, reporting, task breakdown and assigning, remaining responsible people of the approaching deadlines. It will also store all the communication in one place, instead of keeping everything in emails.
In the whole response process, it is important to share information amongst all parties that take some role in creating and executing the RFP strategy in the first place and those who work directly on writing and putting all the pieces of the proposal together.
Once an RFP strategy is being formulated, it is important to communicate it clearly to the entire organization so that everyone knows the procedures to be followed, the persons in charge, and other relevant details.
If you are using RFP software, sharing information would be a piece of cake because everyone with access to the software would receive a notification about a pending document they should review.
Sharing information about the proposal after it was submitted is also important because this way, the employees see that they matter to the company. Sharing failures, as well as success, should be a culture that’s nurtured in every company.
At Tendi, we believe in the difference that only human intelligence and experience can make. So, in addition to using the best software on the market, we provide real human consulting services.
We search, we create, and we manage for you.
Reach out to us today and book your free consultation today.