proposal writing tips

8 Things You Need to Know Before Responding to a Request for Proposal

October 7, 2016

Requests for proposals (RFPs) are documents, often created through a bidding process, by an organization interested in procuring a commodity or service from potential suppliers. It can be an instrumental source of new business opportunities for your company provided you know what they are, why they are issued, and how to make calculated decisions before responding to them (https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/request-for-proposal.html).

We have organized this post into the following sections:

- What is a RFP?

-Reasons for issuing a RFP

-How to effectively respond to a RFP

What is a Request For Proposal (RFP)?

A request for proposal is a kind of bidding solicitation where a company announces that funding is available for a certain project, and businesses can submit proposals for the project’s completion. It usually outlines the bidding process and contractual terms, and provides a clear guideline on how the bid should be presented.

Breaking Down a Request for Proposal

Basically, a RFP will lay out all the specific project needs the client has in a single document, which is then sent to several competing bidders. From there, the client narrows down to a handful of finalists. Each finalist then submits a final proposal, and the client selects the winning bid. The whole process can take weeks or months depending on the complexity of the task at hand (https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/request-for-proposal.html).

Reasons for Issuing a Request for Proposal

The intricacy of a project might result in the need for a formal RFP. In this case, a RFP is issued when a company requires technical expertise, expert capability, or where a product does not exist, and the proposal may require in-depth research to create whatever is being requested. By issuing a RFP, the company benefits from many bidders when seeking an integrated solution from many suppliers.

Government agencies may be required to issue request for proposals for providing open competition to cut down the cost of a solution. However, awarding a proposal that is most conforming to the specifications may not always mean the lowest priced bid id bound to win (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236586).

How to Effectively Respond To a RFP

Tip 1. Always Have a Comprehensive Well-Written Proposal

A well-written proposal will typically contain the following sections: information about your company, what sets you ahead of competition, your thoughts on the RFP project, and how you are the best person for the job, answers to client’s specific questions, your pricing section, return on investment section and your happy client testimonial section. In brief, your proposal should be visually appealing with full images carrying more weight than dense paragraphs of writing. More importantly, you should put yourself in the client’s shoes so they know that you fully understand their needs (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236586).

Tip 2. Don’t Disclose Your Secret Strategy

While trying to set yourself ahead of competition, be very cautious not to give away too much information about your secret strategy. There are high chances that the client will pinpoint your unique advantage and may ask other bidders if they can provide the same. This does two things: first, it educates your competitors on your secret strategies, and secondly it gives the competitor a chance to provide the same services, regardless of whether or not they were actually planning to provide that in their initial response (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/252061).

Tip 3. Don’t Quote Your Lowest Price

The art of negotiation is a factor that’s often overlooked by most proposal writers. The point is, you need to leave some room for the client to negotiate. And in this case, it means that you have to let the procurement team win by achieving price savings from the original quote. If you normally price your business with a 40% gross margin, put a quote with a 50% profit margin, knowing that the company will be expecting at least a 10% cut from the initial price during the process.

Tip 4. Bundle Price as Much as You Can

The more specific you get in your pricing section; the more the number of items a client can try to negotiate down. For instance, if you’re offering a certain service, don’t detail pricing for all its features and functionality in isolation. Instead, combine pricing for the service as a whole unit. Your aim is to make it harder for the client to turn the tables on you. This is because the client will always try to break out the details. So tread slowly and dig in only where you need to (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/252061).

Tip 5. Always be ready for last minute requests

RFPs sometimes come in last minute, with tight deadlines for proposal submission (2 or 3 weeks). For complex projects, it becomes very hard to prepare a proposal in such a short period. For this reason, you need to have a model RFP on demand. Such that when the RFP is issued, you have at least 70% of the material all ready and can therefore quickly customize it to suit the particular needs for that particular project. The better equipped you are, the less of a bother it will be when responding to any RFP (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_proposal).

Tip 6. Take Advantage of the Q&A Part

There are two things to keep in mind when answering client’s questions in the Q&A part. First, you should build credit for yourself and then outperform your competitors. All questions and answers will typically be shared between all competing bidders. If you know that you’re better than your competitors in certain areas that are of interest to the client, answer in a way that will outsmart the answers given by your fellow bidders. You want the client to be aware of your strengths, but not all your strengths, which might give way to your competitors (https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/236586).

Tip 7. Confirm That All Specifications Will Be Met

RFPs are very specific. Pay close attention to the small details laid out by the client. For example, if a RFP calls for 30,000 products in a particular span of time, make sure to mention that you can handle that amount comfortably. The trick is in the details, and your client is looking for someone that can nail down all the small things that matter. Sometimes, leaving out a tiny detail can cost you a contract, so don’t allow this to happen to you (https://www.inc.com/encyclopedia/request-for-proposal.html).

Tip 8. Respond in the Correct Format

This is one of the tips that seem a little too obvious that most people tend to ignore. Your proposal needs to conform to the proper format. If the RFP demands that you should respond in a certain way, then you ought to oblige. In this digital era, you will most likely receive a digital RFP and will naturally have to respond in the same way. Always pay attention to the format your client expects your proposal to fit (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Request_for_proposal).

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