When a request for proposals (RFP) goes out, it’s not long before the requester starts receiving an influx of proposals. Of course, the requester won’t accept all or even most of them.
Unfortunately, if your RFP response doesn’t meet criteria or get straight to the point, it’s unlikely that the requester will even read further than the first two sentences. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen with the following tips.
1. Read the RFP Requirements
And then read them again.
Your proposal should follow the precise formatting requirements outlined by the requester. For example, if it arrived via USPS, the requester may expect all replies to be sent via snail mail in return. The vast majority of RFP responses can be submitted electronically, but you should always check – and check again before you send them off.Take a look at other criteria as well. Many RFPs will include a document that explains how your proposal will be “scored,” similar to the way a professor might grade an academic paper based on a rubric. Pay attention to these criteria to strengthen your proposal across the board. If you must, treat it like a to-do list, and only check off the tasks when they’re the best they can be.
2. Put Your Team Together
Once you have a sense of the requirements, it’s time to take a good look at your internal resources. Are you up to the task of taking on the work you propose? Many requesters will treat RFP responses as business agreements. Should your proposal be approved, it’s bad form – not to mention bad business – to cancel. Make sure you have no conflicts and that enough experienced team members are available during the time you’ve set.
When you’ve decided that you plan to respond, it’s time to put a team together. The members of this team should be the same people who will provide the service to the client – especially if you plan to include brief profiles of your team members (as you should) in the proposal itself. Then, designate a person or persons who will handle client relations and other communications down the line.
Finally, once your team is ready, read the requirements – yes, again. This time, you’ll have several fresh pairs of eyes on the RFP. Team members will have the opportunity to provide input about where their expertise might best be allocated, which can be valuable insight as you move forward.
3. Address All the Details, But Don’t Drag It Out
Now it’s time to write the proposal, which is a delicate balance of highly detailed information and concise, accurate writing.
First, let’s talk about detail. As you create your document, make notes of every detail in the RFP itself and address those points explicitly in the writing. Prospects want to know that you can and will hit every nail on the head, even the little ones that other proposal writers might ignore. It’s not unheard of for prospects to disregard proposals that don’t include the most devilish of details.
However, it’s also important to write concisely. Many agencies write longwinded proposals that detail every selling point from start to finish. This is terrible practice. When you ramble on and on, you’re giving the prospect the impression that you only care about how great your product or service is – not how well you’ve taken their needs into consideration. If the prospect can quickly scan your proposal and get a sense of what you offer right away, all the better.
4. Remember – It’s Not All About You
In fact, very little is about you. Every single talking point should somehow relate back to the client. If something in your proposal doesn’t directly address one of the criteria in the RFP, either delete or rewrite it so that it does.
Unfortunately, many agencies attempt to impress by “improving” on the criteria outlined in the RFP. But it’s not about what you think the client wants. The client knows what’s important to them, and it’s not your job to tell them how to do theirs. Put your agenda and ego aside and focus on how your solution answers their questions.
If you have a unique, creative idea, feel free to include it – but only after you’ve addressed every point the client has identified as important to their decision-making process. Always include the caveat that these are only preliminary ideas that can be further explored or, alternatively, discarded when you finally meet to discuss the project.
5. Be Genuine
Nothing is more obvious – or more annoying – than a form letter. Every agency has standard language they use to communicate their message, philosophy, and other industry information. But the last thing you should do is cut and paste from a submission you’ve submitted in the past – especially if that submission was rejected.
A customized response is an opportunity, not a chore. Use the proposal to show how well you understand the prospect, their industry, and their needs. Demonstrate your knowledge of the client in particular, and offer insights about their audience.
With the right combination of information, responses, and examples of your work, you should be able to give a comprehensive solution to the client’s problem. One detail you should include is why you’ve highlighted particular examples of your work. Tell the client, literally, why this example is relevant to their request. It’s not presumptuous to do so; it’s good writing.
Learn How iQuoteXpress Can Help
Keeping RFPs straight is no small task. You can make the job easier for yourself by using business proposal software to keep track of all the information you need to send complete, accurate proposals. At iQuoteXpress, we’ve created a web-based software application designed to make your job easier. Use it to keep tabs on up-to-date client information, proposal requirements, deadlines, and more.
Want to learn more about what we can do for you? Contact iQuoteXpress today for access to our obligation-free software demo, or to speak with a member of our team.