How to respond to a request for a proposal?

A Request for proposal is a business document that announces a project, describes it, and solicits bids from qualified contractors to complete it. You have identified a request for proposal that you think suits your company’s assets.
You have proven to be proficient in your domain, your expertise can match the competition, your teams are available and the project seems viable in terms of planning and financing.
In this context, the next step is to create one of the most popular sales collateral : your response to the RFP.

But, what are the key elements that should be included and how should you organize your document ?

In this article, we will see which essential elements should be included in your response to an RFP and how to guide your work in three steps.

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What are the key elements to writing a response to an RFP ?

Building the right response to an RFP can be tricky, as this document can win or lose your company a new collaboration opportunity. So, before you write your final document, here are a few key elements that you should keep in mind :

  • Read through the RFP carefully and identify the diverse pain points the client faces.
  • Review the requirements with stakeholders to make sure you are able to meet them
  • Prepare questions that need to be answered by other departments
  • Create a first draft : it should be raw but highlight the key points of each part of your response
  • Distribute your draft among the team, so colleagues can pitch in and bring in perspective
  • Build a second, more complete version
  • Verify your last version and edit accordingly, always aiming to use a clear language

The idea is for your RFP to be a perfect fit for your prospect : you need to stand out. In this context, taking the time to create a solid document is key. But which guidelines should you follow to structure your response ?

How to organize your RFP response ?

Each response to an RFP is different, however the process to structure it can remain the same. Below, three steps you should follow.

1. Gather outside information

Before you start writing, it is key to understand the prospect’s situation from every angle. In this context, take a step back and try to gather as much information from inside and outside sources if possible on :

  • The status of the project and the market
  • The project sponsors (suppliers, contractors…)
  • The project goals and expected results
  • The project’s expected timeline
  • The prospect’s inside ressources
  • The prospect’s readiness

If you have the answer to these questions, you are sure to have a better knowledge of the prospect’s context. This will allow you to be more specific and appeal directly to the prospect’s needs when you are building your response.

2. Build your team

As we mentioned previously, a response to an RFP takes more than one person to structure. In this context, it is key to decide beforehand on the team that would take on the project if your company is selected by the prospect.

In this context, two different teams participate in the project. On one hand you have the team responding to the request and on the other hand there is the operational team that will execute the project.

The team is lead by the project manager whose role includes :

  • Orchestrating the creation of the response to the RFP
  • Analyse the risks of the project
  • Fix the price for the project
  • Mediate on difficult decisions
  • Oversees the project timeline
  • Leads follow up meetings with all the stakeholders
  • Ensures communication with the client’s top management

3. Structure your project

To make your response to an RFP even more relevant, it is key to structure your response in a “project mode”. Below a few steps to follow :

  • List all key players involved in the project
  • Build the project hierarchy
  • Define a functional analysis grid
  • Divide the different tasks
  • Build the project timeline
  • Define the due dates and what you will deliver
  • Structure the roadmap for they different key players

All in all, the idea is that through your response, you can begin to build a relationship with your prospect. From your response they should feel :

  • You understand their issues
  • You have a structured plan to solve their issues
  • Your organization is trustworthy and diligent

In other words, your response should impact your prospect in a way that they feel that you are the best fit to help them solve their issue.

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