Once you start exploring the world of Request for Proposals (RFPs) you will learn that sometimes a well-written proposal is what will seal the deal. Since the proposal is in the face of your company, it is imperative that you write it in a good manner, including all the most important topics that need to be mentioned.
One of the most important things you should keep in mind is who you are writing for. Since the proposal can be treated as a job application, you need to customize it and adjust it to the prospective customer’s needs. Never leave this from your mind, since it can help you get the job.
Further in the article, you will find sections that need to be included in every request for proposal response. Don’t take them for granted and don’t write them stenciled. Feel free to adjust the order or to add something that is not on the list.
When adding extra stuff, make sure to ask yourself how you or your potential client will benefit from that. You should evaluate whether that additional data is really necessary because you don’t want to fill your presentation with fluff proposal content.
Step 1 - Cover Letter
Just like when you are applying for a job, a good cover letter can take you a long way. This is usually the first thing the investor will read. The best cover letter will create a connection between the prospective client and your company - you will show how you understand their issue, and how you believe they have the solution.
In this letter, you need to show that you truly believe you are the one who should take on the road to the success of the project, because you know the ultimate goal, and you have the way to realize it.
This is not the place to talk about yourself since you will have plenty of room to do that later on. It is a place to show how you understand the investor’s issue and how you identify with their needs. In the end, a cover letter is your sales pitch.
Step 2 - Executive Summary
Now you have reached the part where you are supposed to talk about your company. The executive summary is showing who you are as a company when you were founded, what are your areas of expertise, etc. Here you can mention all the things you consider to be relevant for the investor.
An executive summary is a very important part of your proposal. Since the proposal itself will comprise numerous elements, sometimes the investors will only read the executive summary and based on that rule you out or leave you in the game. This part of the proposal should be informative and persuasive - you need to show why you are the best fit for the job, and to provide data to support your claims. Be reasonable and don’t write too much - keep it simple and concise.
This report should not be more than 1-2 pages long, since more than that may have a negative effect on the reader (they are more likely to lose interest). The executive summary should be just that - a summary, but it should still have enough information.
Step 3 - Timeline and Schedule
All requests for proposals will have set a deadline by when the project should be completed. Some of them will also specify deadlines for specific milestones and deliverables. However, this is not always the case, so in the next part of your RFP response, you need to include a timeline and schedule for the entire proposal project.
Make sure to break down the project into milestones and to set deadlines for each one of them. This way the investor can see at what pace you are planning to move forward. Make sure to include all the tasks that need to be performed from start to finish, so that no part is being left out.
A good thing to include in this section is the person in charge of the deadlines. This way you can reassure the investor since you are pointing to one specific person who will be the contact point, and who will make sure that there are no delays.
Step 4 - Managing the Contract
In this section, you need to address several things regarding how you will handle the contract. This includes all the personnel who will be included in this project, with their contact information.
Also, here you need to state how you will handle all the legal documentation, any security checks, and approvals, and what reports and documents you will need in order for this to be finished.
However, if you provide any post-sales care (and you definitely should have a sales team that takes that into consideration), it is important to mention it here. You need to state what the post-sales will include, who is the person they could contact if they need any help, will you provide regular services of the product and for how long, etc.
Assure them that you will be their long-term partner and that you will not disappear once the contract finishes. Building strong relations with your partner also means you will be there for them long after the deadline has passed.
Step 5 - Assure Them You Can Do It
In the final part of your RFP response, you need to reassure the investor that you are the one for their project. All aforementioned parts will serve the same purpose, but here you need to show examples of your previous work.
Your plan and detailed timeline on how you will achieve their goal is okay and may sound feasible on paper, but to truly convince the investors, you need to show some tangible results from your previous projects.
Of course, don’t exaggerate here and share the entire project, but a simple explanation of the problem and the solution you provided will be enough. Not to mention that all of this needs to be backed up with data.
When you are showing some of the previous results you achieved for other investors, make sure to put stress on the ROI (return on investment) that was achieved. This is strong data that will show your potential client that you are able to achieve great results.
Before Everything - Build a Team
Writing a successful response to the RFP depends on the quality and expertise of the person writing it, as well. The human factor is involved in all processes today, and the RFP response is no exception.
For someone who has just entered this world, the terminology and the response process may be too overwhelming, so it is important to evaluate which people will need to be included in the team from the beginning.
One of the persons who should be there from the start is SME (Subject Matter Experts). Their role is to guide you through the whole process and prepare you to lead the response process on your own in the future.
They will be a valuable asset as they will provide you all the information you need for the process to flow seamlessly. If you do include the SME in this process, make sure to include him/her in all other activities that are tightly connected to the project, like research, meetings, consultancy, etc.
They will be able to give you a view from an angle you haven’t considered, mostly because you are not an expert in this area. SMEs are specialized to give you their understanding of the issue the investor is facing, and the best possible solution you can craft.
Learn to Interpret Data
The process of writing an RFP response doesn’t end when you click the send button. You have done the easiest part, but now you need to learn what you can do to increase the chances of winning the job.
If the RFP is an open bid type, you can see solutions and prices others have quoted, and you can reevaluate your proposal, offering better prices to match your competitor. However, bear in mind that you don’t have to offer the lowest possible prices on the market - you just need to try to match the average and explain why your products or services cost that much.
If you are a more advanced user of the RFP software, you may have already learned how to use the software to gather valuable data on how the investor has received your proposal. In the RFP you will see the requirements regarding how the potential client wants the offer to be sent, and that’s where your opportunity lies.
If they require the offer to be submitted or sent via a link, you can turn that to your advantage, since the software is able to give you some basic information about when the document was open, by whom. You can even get information on how much time a person has spent reading each page of your proposal.
This may not directly help you with that submitted proposal, but it will be a good starting point for future reference. By analyzing the data, you will see which pages from your proposal are showing poor performance. These pages need to be written differently in the future, to catch the reader’s attention.
Once you submit a proposal, there is no going back since you can’t change the details of that specific document, but you can learn from experience so that next time you can submit a better proposal.
There are several things you should be aware of when writing an RFP response. All these challenges can be a potential issue, but if you handle them right, there should be no setbacks in the planned timeline of writing the RFP response.
It is rare, but it can happen - the potential customer has simply forgotten to put some of the vital information in their RFP, and now you are missing information in order to finish your proposal. The potential issue here is that the information was not listed in the RFP simply because the issuer does not have it.
To overcome this potential issue, use the window period before the deadline for proposal submission comes. During this time, there is someone from the issuer’s company available to answer all the potential questions you may have or any unclarities that are shown in the RFP.
If you fail to make clarifications at this stage, the RFP proposal you submit will not be the right one. There might be some inconsistencies, or you will simply be unable to finish it due to the lack of information. Always make sure to do it right, and to do it on time.
SMEs Taking Too Much Time
Once you start applying for more complex projects, you will notice the need to hire more than one SME to help you with the proposal writing. In this process, the challenge will be to harmonize everyones’ writing style.
Good advice on how to avoid different writing styles is to provide each SME with a writing guide that has been written by you and that matches the company’s writing style.
Another issue you could face is the lack of personal time SMEs are experiencing, so they can be rarely available for consultations, adjustments, meetings, etc. To avoid losing time in communication with the SME, make sure that they are your last resort - try finding the information you need before you contact them, by using internal or external data sources and databases.
There Is a Preferred Vendor
This issue is more likely to happen when the private RFP is in question. The private companies have the right to hire the vendor they like the most, based on criteria they have written by themselves.
If the deal between these two parties has already been made in the background, there is nothing you can do to increase the fairness of this process. The only thing you can do is to drop writing the proposal as soon as you realize what the situation is.
To avoid wasting time on situations like this, make sure to look for the signs and recognize them in time, to avoid wasting yours on a bid you cannot win.
Very often, the issuer of the RFP requests the proposal to be written ASAP. In practice, this means a very short time for you to organize a writing team and assemble the proposal. The way to overcome this roadblock is by using software that is supposed to speed up the process and make things easier.
Based on the given input, the software can analyze past RFPs and give you beforehand commonly asked questions, and the answers to those questions. This will drastically reduce time searching for information in order to finish writing the proposal.
If you want to be sure to write a successful RFP response, choose Tendi to assist you in the entire bidding process.
Contact us today and book a free consultation with our experts.