In my last blog entry, I talked about a 12 step process to ensure you don’t end up submitting a losing bid because you didn’t have a plan. If you missed it,  read the blog.

In this and the next few podcasts, I’ll outline the 12 steps.Step 1 : Pre-RFP issue

The more you prepare before a formal RFP is issued, the better off you’ll be. While you won’t know about all RFPs before they’re issued, your marketing and sales staff should be tracking potential clients and know when current supplier contracts are coming up for renewal or re-bid.

Most formal RFPs include limitations on contact with the client and their staff once the RFP is issued, which limits your ability to gather information that can be useful to your proposal response. In many cases, making unauthorized contact with the client during an RFP process can get you disqualified from bidding.

For less formal or non-competitive proposal submissions, this will be less of an issue, but making contact during the process is risky. It’s better to start preparing in advance if you know about an upcoming RFP.

For formal RFPs, you can use the pre-RFP issue phase to make contact with individuals in the organization, gather more information, or introduce key individuals from your company to the organization. This makes it easier for you to respond to the proposal once it’s issued, and the client will have more of a connection with the people in your company.

Another advantage to engaging clients before the RFP is released is to educate them on other issues and considerations related to the service, and give them ideas and information they could include in the RFP itself. This can include building in requirements you can easily meet, additional services you can provide, specifications you already work with or criteria that match your capabilities.

While sharing information and making introductions is valuable, you can also use the pre-RFP period to do more research on the issues, the client and the service and, if relevant, align yourself with the right subcontractors, service providers and even technical or writing assistance for the proposal itself. The more of this you do in advance, the more time you can spend during the RFP phase on your proposal response strategy and the crafting of an effective written proposal.

Step 2: RFP review

Once you receive the RFP documentation, carefully review the entire RFP to prepare for developing the response, and to identify issues, concerns or details that will impact your proposal.

While it depends on your services and the RFP itself, here are typical things you should look at to ensure you can prepare your proposal effectively. Sometimes simple things like missing a mandatory site visit, not having the insurance requirement in place, or other details will disqualify you.

Some of the things you should look for include:

  • The RFP process
  • Overall timelines
  • Mandatory requirements
  • Scoring, evaluation criteria and weighting
  • Process for submitting questions, including deadlines
  • Sources of additional information, such as a data room or online source
  • Site tour dates and other client meetings
  • The actual scope of work
  • Specifications and service levels
  • Financial proposal submission requirements, forms, etc.
  • Technical (written) proposal requirements
  • Submission (delivery) requirements
  • Insurance and bonding requirements
  • Minimum experience requirements
  • Page count, margins and type size requirements

If the client provided a sample contract as part of the RFP, review it carefully to see what may impact your service solution or pricing. Some RFPs require you to accept their contract as-is while others invite comment and modification through a specific process. Use care when objecting to clauses in the contract. Be sure they really matter, otherwise you risk creating a negative impression by objecting to insignificant issues.

The information you must provide and the questions you must answer in response to the RFP proposal tell you what background information you need and the resources you require to address them effectively. This is the time to source those resources and set deadlines internally.

In my next podcast, I’ll deal with the Strategy you need to develop before you start to write your proposal if you want to win more business.

Part of your strategy should be to ask me questions, so feel free to leave a comment on this or any other episode or send a note. I’d love to hear from you.

This topic comes from the book ‘Win More Business – Write Better Proposals’. To get the book, visit our website or search for it online at Amazon and many other on-line book sellers. To order for your marketing staff, your trade association or a conference, contact me directly and don’t forget to ask about my seminars, workshops and proposal review services.

Our Book "Win More Business - Write Better Proposals". is now available at Amazon in many countries, including the USA , Canada, UK, Japan, Germany and France. You can also order it directly from the author on this website