Request for Proposals: Respond to the Right RFPs

Procurement tenders are an extremely common way of soliciting proposals for a project. In addition to being one of the main ways of doing business with the government, many private companies also use a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to narrow their focus for vendors for a project.

Request for Proposal response and bid submissions should be a key strategy for your business to develop additional revenue-generating opportunities.

When looking at RFP opportunities for potential contracts, it can be overwhelming if you have limited proposal development experience. One of the most common questions we get when it comes to RFP is, “how do I know what tender is right for my business?” This article will help you strategically filter and respond to the best RFPs available.

Read the Request for Proposals Completely

After you’ve identified a potential tender opportunity for your business to bid on, read the Request for Proposals in full. This might seem a bit obvious, but a lot of people skim through the RFP and jump into completing forms. The RFP has a lot of information in it that will help you figure out if it’s the right project for your team.

Once you understand the project scope, requirements, and deliverables, you will usually have a good idea if there’s a fit.

When I say ‘read the RFP in full’ I mean the whole bid package. Read all the submission documents, the FAQs, schedules, and any other information offered on the RFP since this is valuable to you when figuring out if you can respond to it.

Can You Meet the RFP’s Requirements? Polish vs. Fit

When we speak with businesses who have failed RFPs in the past, there’s almost always two reasons that this happened:

  1. The proposal package wasn’t fully polished; and
  2. The company truly wasn’t the best fit for the project.

Typically, when we meet with people who have failed on a bid, they immediately assume it was because of pricing. When a company puts together a solid proposal and they meet all project requirements, sometimes it does come down to price – but that is rarely a factor in our experience. When we complete a debrief of their previous RFP experience, it almost always comes down to those two factors – polish and fit.

Polish on a proposal package is based on submitting a professionally developed package that includes all the required documents and highlights how your company is the best fit for the project. Project fit is based on your company’s ability to deliver on the project.

If you’re reading an RFP and thinking, “this sounds like another project we did” or “we did this exact project for another client,” then usually that’s a great starting point.

If, on the other hand, you’re thinking, “I wonder if our operations group could stretch a bit to do this” or “if we hire another resource we could deliver on this,” then it’s not likely a good fit. RFPs work well when they’re a natural extension of your existing offerings.

Determining your company’s fit is critical to figuring out if you should proceed. On first review of an RFP, if your company matches 70% of the requirements, then it’s worth looking into it in more detail to figure out if you already have the other 30%. In some cases, you may be able to sub-contract aspects of a project, but the more in-house capability you use for the project, the better.

If you’ve determined that it’s a good fit but have some outstanding questions, then you should take advantage of any opportunity to discuss the bid with the RFP issuer.

There’s usually a period when you can ask questions and sometimes, for larger and more complicated bids, a webinar or conference call is offered to provide additional details. When it’s available to you, you should always take advantage.

After Selection: Developing an RFP Bid Package

Now that you’ve determined you have a good fit and can develop a competitive bid package for the project, you need to put the heavy lifting in. Like job hunting, you want to put your best foot forward as this might be your only opportunity to present your business. Start by getting organized – review the RFP submission requirements carefully to make sure you know everything that’s required. Develop and use a checklist to help you manage. If it’s a complex submission that requires multiple resources to put everything together, develop a GANTT chart and start assigning responsibility.

You should act as a project manager to bring these resources together and hold the team accountable to get what’s needed for a successful bid package.

From here, start compiling the submission. Keep formatting consistent where possible to give a coherent brand image throughout the entire package.

Next Steps: Access Support for RFP Development and Management

Engaging a professional consultant can help increase your RFP bid’s chances of success while also developing the tools and processes to better manage RFP opportunities. Many clients we meet with need support getting started with the procurement process, developing the bids, and managing ongoing bid opportunities.

To learn more about how Mentor Works’ team can support your organization’s Request for Proposal process, please contact us and let us know more about your plans.

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Written by

Rob holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from Western University, and has published articles in international journals as well as given presentations throughout Canada and Portugal. His area of expertise lies in advanced manufacturing, international development, export market development, and automotive manufacturing. As a Program Manager at Mentor Works, Rob works with business owners to obtain funding to meet their growth strategies. Prior to joining Mentor Works, Rob worked extensively in various academic roles, software and ICT sales and development roles, and in quality control roles in the automotive industry.

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