It's easy to get lazy about our RFP responses. We already have a full plate, and the last thing we need is another 100+ questions to answer. It can be tempting to throw something together -- just to say we responded.
But you put hours into those responses. So make them count. Below are some quick tips on how to hit the objectives of each section, get better responses from SMEs, and stand out from the competition.
For an in depth guide, skip straight to all our best RFP response tips in our new eBook. It covers expert advice on how to make your RFP process easier, and content more compelling.
Okay, first things first, to write a winning RFP response we have to make sure we're hitting the goal of each section.
Make sure you're hitting the objectives
Start with the golden rule of RFP responses: if it isn’t relevant to the project’s scope, it isn’t relevant. Delete any and all fluff about your organization. Your Evaluators are incredibly busy. So don’t waste their time. If they can't find your key points, you could lose them.
- Goal: prove you understand their challenge.
- How: restate their known objectives. Give a preview of your solution while focusing on how you're solving their problem. Make it all about them, use their terminology. The issuing team will likely be skimming your response for specific keywords.
About Us/Management Overview
- Goal: prove why you're qualified to fulfill their needs.
- How: do a little research to find out why they're issuing the RFP (did their last provider fail to deliver?). The more directly you can speak to their needs, the greater your chance of winning the project.
- Goal: lay out key milestones dates.
- How: help the client visualize the process, what kind of timeline are they signing up for?
- Goal: explain how you will manage the contract in terms of supervision, communication, and quality assurance.
- How: be very specific, list number of check-ins, who handles that, how it's handled, etc.
- Goal: put them at ease about what to expect.
- How: a matrix summary of overall schedule works well. Be sure to include:
1. Risks or potential problems
2. Location of the work or team (on-site, off-site)
3. Project staffing (by name or job title)
- Goal: overcome unfair preference with education and awareness.
- How: does the client seems to favor one approach versus another? Is the phrasing overly specific? If so, it could be because your competitor got to them first. Counteract this prejudice by explaining how you differentiate, and why it's important.
References & Case Studies
- Goal: show what kind of results you're capable of delivering for someone like them.
- How: share the positive ROI you've achieved for clients. Include metrics and powerful quotes if possible. The Purchasing team’s interest will pique when they see what you've done for people like them.
Tips for getting the best answers from Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
If you're a Proposal Manager/Coordinator you know how painful it can be to get quality RFP responses from your SMEs. But it doesn't have to be. Try these tips for better responses.
- Remember, many stakeholders will not intuitively know what to cover in their answers
- Consider providing them with an answer formula like this for guidance
- Make content management a priority -- you'll get much better answers if the question is only asked once
The easiest way to frustrate your stakeholders is to ask them the same question 15 times. And you better believe the 10th time they answer it will not be as good or as thorough as the first.
The number one mistake we see is teams spending all their time writing responses... but never organizing them. Because if your team can't find and reuse past responses, you end up stuck reinventing the wheel.
So whatever system or proposal software you use to organize your content, make sure you can:
- Quickly search and find past answers
- See who wrote the content (no sharing logins)
- See when it was written
- Access a revision history
- Verify when the content was last updated
- Check how often it's been used
How to stand out from the competition
Quick tips for making your proposal stand out (full article on it here):
- Make it skim-able -- your Evaluators are pressed for time, stand out by being clear and succinct. Use headings, subheadings, call-outs, and bullets to make your proposal easy to skim.
- Don't be afraid to write simply. Data shows the majority of people only effectively read at or below an eighth grade reading level.
- Read your responses out loud (great tip from a Sports Journalist I know). It will help you catch a ton of errors/awkwardness that spell check won't.
- Don't default to using a theme - take a good look at whether or not it's right for you.
- It's never about you. Your audience doesn't care how great you are. They only care about how you can make their lives easier and improve their profitability.
- Don't only explain what you do, but why it's important (great video on that here). It will help you write an "about us" and/or background that will make Evaluators pay attention.
- Use these 10 Simple Edits That'll Instantly Improve Any Piece of Writing. It will help you make your content stronger, more to the point, and more persuasive.
Want more tips? Check out our easy eBook.