Tips for bidding on RFPsWhen it comes to a Request for Proposal (RFP), the first question you should ask yourself is this:

To bid, or not to bid?

At a meeting this week of my local group of independents, the Communicators Connection, presenter Paul Heron pointed out that for small businesses like ours, responding to an RFP may be more work than it’s worth. RFPs are often dense and detailed, and require significant time just to understand all the requirements. The corresponding response must also be detailed and match every requirement, or risk being rejected.

In Paul’s experience – as managing partner of Complex2Clear, a consulting firm that focuses on bid processes and strategy to improve win rates – a decision to bid on an RFP should consider these points:

  • How much do you know about the prospective client?
  • How much do you know about the project?
  • How much do you know about who else might be competing for the job?
  • Do you have enough resources to complete the project? Will success pay off down the road?

Make the bid/no bid decision quickly. If bidding on the RFP makes sense, be warned that the proposal will mean a lot of work. The keys are to:

  1. Comply: Go through the RFP and highlight the requirements. Check each one off as you complete it.
  2. Respond: Show that you understand the drivers and hot button issues behind the RFP.
  3. Position: Show how you are different from or better than your likely competition.
  4. Present: Most responses to RFPs are “beyond boring,” Paul said. To make yours stand out, use photos, tables and other graphics to help the prospect visualize your offering. Spell out key benefits and differentiators in captions to these graphics as well as the text.

The executive summary is the most important part of your response. Make sure it’s about the prospect, not how great YOU are. Use a graphic on each page to break up the text. List all the requirements in a checklist that shows how you meet each one. Words like “align perfectly” are good!

“The key is to differentiate your company,” Paul said. “Show that you have the goods and your competition doesn’t.”

That means making it clear you understand the issues; you and your team have relevant skills and experience; you’ve done the work before; and you can meet your customer’s requirements. Anticipate and answer questions. Make sure the document stands alone, as it will likely be read by people who don’t necessarily know all the issues.

“It’s a big project management exercise,” Paul acknowledged.

More on RFPs:
Find out why another presenter called the RFP “a Recipe for Pain”

Image: High Stakes Gambling by Maggie Smith and