The Good: Your company has been chosen and invited to submit a written proposal on your capabilities to handle an important project contract – and you are excited about the opportunity and really confident you can handle the project in an excellent manner. The Bad: Possibly 10+ other firms who provide the same or similar services have also been invited to compete for this plum contract.
The Ugly: Time is short, the RFP is written in a somewhat confusing manner, they are asking for details and answers about your operation and your approach which you may not have compiled before, you do not know a lot about the client (organization, history, etc.), you are not really clear about the main things that will drive the client’s selection decision (cost, credentials and experience, working style and relationship factors, references, etc), you wonder if you are up against competitors who have an inside contact track …
In principle, the BID specifies how it is to be done where the RFP invites you to present how YOU would do the project. Having said that, RFP can include elements of a BID and a BID can include elements of an RFP. It all depends on who wrote the document.
RFP Tool #3 Companies don’t buy from companies. . .People buy from people.
Behind each and every transaction are people. Do not ever forget this. Business is always about relationships. So start developing relationships with everyone of your customers. An RFP is an excellent way to do this. How? By calling the person who wrote it and ask questions. A personal meeting is always best, but phone conversations are acceptable. You will want a list of ‘intelligent’ questions when you call. You will call for ‘clarification’ of the RFP.
Find the person who wrote it.
Here are a list of questions you will want to ask when the timing is right:
- Do you have a vendor of choice for this project?
- Who was the last vendor to be awarded the business?
- What is your biggest concern about this project?
- Who will be making the decision on who gets the business
- Have any previous vendors failed to perform? If so how?
- What do I have to do to get this business?
- If we are not awarded the business, may I see the winning proposal?
RFP Tool #5: Microsoft Word.
Use MS Word for all your RFPs. Because there are tools for professional writers than can help you. For instance, spelling, grammar and format. But most of all is what is called the ‘readability’. This will grade your paper for how easy it is to understand. The easier it is to understand, the better the customer will ‘feel’ about your response. In MS Word, go to Help and type in ‘readability’ and follow the instructions. Attempt to write at an index of 5. This means that a person with a 5th grade education could understand what you have written. This is accomplished by writing in short declarative sentences. Not compound sentences. Remember, the easier you are to understand, the better they will like you.
RFP Tool #6: Post RFP activity
RFP Tool #7: Never burn a bridge
RFP Tool #8: Presenting before the customer.
Good news, the customer has asked you to be one of the finalists in the RFP. You will be presenting your proposal before the decision makers. NOW WHAT!!! Well first of all, congratulations. You have obviously passed all the requirements, just like the other finalists. So how do you distinguish your proposal above your competition? First understand that the winner in the competition is the one who makes the customer feel at ease. Those that make the customer ill at ease are shown the door. At this point, you want to present those qualities that will make the customer want to do business with you. Qualities like, integrity, trustworthy, sincere, empathy, and honesty. This is because of the basic nature of man to make decisions on emotions and then back them with facts. If this is the case (and it is) you want them to ‘feel’ better about you than your competition.
How do you do that? First, look your best. A dark suit with a red tie. Shine your shoes. If you look more professional than your competition, you will be received as such. Next, make it a point to shake everyone’s hand and look them in the eye and smile. Allowing them to look you in the eye enables them to determine if they can trust you as a first impression. Then make your presentation that has been prepared and practiced before a live audience.