It is the ultimate bitter sweet moment for companies. You arrive at work and open your inbox to find a shiny new request for proposal (RFP). Most of the time this means a large-deal opportunity and something you cannot ignore. At the same time you get that sinking feeling in your stomach because RFP responses are usually an expensive and time-consuming process. The typical RFP is a significantly complex document that looks more like a legal document than a project overview. However, RFPs should not be something that makes you afraid. We are putting together a new series of posts that will provide you tips to help you write better proposals. Utilizing RFP response technology and following these tips will help you win more RFPs.
Read between the lines of the RFP question or requirements – The way in which the questions and requirements are worded provide a lot of insight into how you should respond to them. If the question is really detailed about specific technologies or services, there is a good change they’re invested, or at least prefer it. They will be looking for a partner who is also committed to that technology or service. Your response should show your expertise in these areas. This is not the time to suggest alternative solutions. If your dead set on providing alternatives it is important to phrase it like this, “Yes, we can provide you with X — and we can advise on alternative solutions if you are interested.”
Do not try to conform to their expectations – RFPs sometimes include general budget parameters and project requirements. If the budget is too small, say so – if there is a better way to address their requirement let them know. Trying to conform yourself to their expectations never works out. Unrealistic project expectations and low budgets almost never end well. Even if you succeed in winning the business you will be fighting an uphill battle. The benefit of their defined expectations though is it usually provides a good indication of how they see the complexity of the project. You may want to match response complexity based on these assumptions.
Think outside of your company – Just because your company does not have the competencies or ability to handle specific requirements does not mean you do not already have a partner or could not find a partner who could support you in these efforts. Some of the most successful RFP responses are the ones that are open about their partnerships and position partners as the ability to bring on another best of breed solution or service. After all would you want to buy one solution that does everything mediocre – or a joint solution that does everything well.
Do not be afraid of any questions – Questions about company size, resources, and clients typically scare most small to medium sized companies. Many times companies respond to these questions defensively or try to appear bigger than they actually are. Do not do this! First examine why the RFP is asking these types of questions. They are trying to evaluate your resources and ability to get the job done. Remember being small also means you are more agile and can get things done faster and better than the bigger competitors. Do not try to hide who you are – just focus on past successes, your ability to handle the project, and the advantages you provide as a smaller company.
Do not forget the strongest advantage you have in an RFP response – Addressing their project goals. So many times I see companies include large sections about their company overview, company bios, past successes, case studies. They even respond directly to their RFP requirements but they forget the one big thing; to include a section or statement directly addressing how your company will achieve their project’s goals. For example, if the RFP is looking for your software to increase conversions on their website – let them know what features you will implement to show them an improvement of 3% over 6 months. No one is saying go crazy in doing work ahead of getting the deal but make sure you directly address at a high level what your business and technology plans are in directly making their project successful.
Remember it is a numbers game. Every sales call does not result in a sale. Combining these strategies along with a project management tool for managing your RFP responses should significantly increase your proposal conversions.