Want to start winning RFPs but the response process gives you a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach? You’re not alone. Every proposal writer knows what it feels like to spend hours searching through spreadsheets, emails and old RFP bids for answers. After all, they know they’ve answered this before! All too often, when they finally locate the content, they discover the answer is outdated.
Then, you feel guilty for interrupting a subject matter expert to get critical proposal content. Meanwhile, you know they have their own pressing concerns. All of this to complete a bid that has no guarantee of winning new business … Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way.
By following the five tips listed below, you can simplify the proposal process and create winning RFPs that land your organization on the shortlist.
1. Identify and understand your ideal customer
Responding to every RFP that comes in the door doesn’t increase your chances of winning new business. In fact, it wastes time and resources.
For example, if you don’t have an existing relationship with the issuer, experts say your chances of winning are very low. And, every second you spend chasing a low-probability opportunity is time you’re not focused on the deals you’re more likely to close.
So, stop going after deals that aren’t a good fit for your company. Focus on winning RFPs that support your business goals. The best way to do this is to use a bid or no bid process.
2. Define your RFP process
Once you’ve decided to bid on a project, determine the most efficient way to complete the proposal.
If you don’t have an RFP team or proposal coordinator, don’t worry — a lot of companies don’t have those roles. Just make sure to clearly define ownership with a RACI matrix and responsibilities in the RFP process. That way everyone knows who is involved, what the expectations are and when the deadlines are.
If possible, give yourself 72 hours or so to proofread and add the final touches before submitting the bid. This will also give you time to ensure the responses carry the same voice and tone, which can take work when multiple stakeholders provide content.
3. Assign proposal tasks early
Start assigning tasks as soon as you receive the RFP. Whatever you do, do NOT procrastinate. Remember, if you have to engage subject matter experts, proposals are lower on their priority list so it may take some time to get the answers you need.
Giving them as much time to answer questions as possible will help them balance their priorities and help create winning RFPs. In addition, it prevents you from scrambling to add their content at the last minute.
4. Be genuine — Customize canned answers
If you use canned responses, the people who score the submission will see right through it. Instead, you should provide customized responses that directly address their most pressing concerns.
So, how can you give your team more time to customize answers? Great question! Stop reinventing the wheel with every RFP response. It’s imperative you develop a centralized repository of proposal content you can quickly access and tailor to each RFP.
This can be daunting, I know. But it’s absolutely worth it. Start by compiling answers from recent, successful RFP bids. You’ll know the content is up to date because the bid is recent, and you’ll know it’s compelling because you won the bid. Then, create a list of the most frequently asked questions and start collecting answers.
You may need help from some of your team with this step. Don’t hesitate to ask. They’ll likely be happy to help knowing this will prevent them from having to answer the same questions over and over again.
5. Highlight how you are different, but don’t give away your secret sauce
Keep it simple. Provide value through substance, not superfluous detail. For example, a public relations firm might want to detail how their industry contacts and relationships can help a potential client get the exposure and press they’re looking for.
They won’t, however, want to list those contacts to prospects — it provides little value, can potentially undermine the sale and may even sour those critical relationships.