You’ve received an RFP. Great. Fantastic.
Oh, wait a minute…now what? While helping clients weigh their options, and determining the value of responding to RFPs ourselves, we’ve come up with a few guidelines that help make this process a bit less stressful.
1. Scan for response deadlines. Sometimes RFPs offer flexibility. Don’t allow scheduling conflicts to dictate an instant no thank you response. Before calling for extensions on deadlines or for alternate arrangements for pre-bid meetings, finish the Go/No Go decision process.
2. Scan for scope. Do the services requested fall within your company’s core strengths? If the majority of services requested are peripheral to your primary area of expertise, or would have to be outsourced, this contract may only be right for your company if the industry, or particular client, fulfill other business growth objectives.
3. Scan for contract value. If the services requested appear to be out of line with the contract budget, you may not be the only respondent to notice. If the scope of the contract otherwise appears to be aligned with your company’s core services, feel free to call the RFP contact (often the Contracting Officer) for confirmation of the facts presented. If your understanding is correct, you can choose either to decline or to modify the scope of services or the budget in your proposal. Including a succinct rationale for the revision in your proposal will underscore your professionalism and experience. It may also disqualify your proposal.
4. Scan for client industry, type and location. Do you have set parameters for appropriate clients? Audit current clients for industry, type and location. Edit the resulting list as a guide for business development. Add industries, business types and locations in which you’d like to grow business; delete industries, types and locations that have proven less desirable.
Okay, the RFP captured your interest. Should you respond? Can you respond well?
5. How did this prospective client learn about your company? Compare referrals from a trusted client to contacts made “blindly” through advertising or business directories. One of the comparison points should be the conversion rate (from proposal to signed contract to ongoing client relationship) of other companies contacting you in the same manner. Keep in mind that government agencies and some other organizations are required by law or institutional procedure to request bids from several resources.
6. Does the prospective client’s RFP process match your company’s standard process? How much customizing will the proposal require? What investment will you be required to make to deliver a quality proposal package consistent with your company’s image? (Employee time, resources, expenses, etc.)
From this point, you can either trust your instincts and your understanding of the project and its demands, or, if you’re still not convinced, use a simple rating process to help tip the scales.
Rate the following statements from 1 to 5 based on their accuracy. Award a 1 for statements that are not at all true and a 5 to those that are absolutely spot on.
__ The timing is right.
__ The services requested speak to your company’s core strengths.
__ The budget allows for the smooth and timely completion of all service requirements, advancing the client’s objectives, and providing positive revenue for your company.
__ The potential client requesting the proposal would be a good match with your company’s mission, culture, philosophy, industry focus, defining values, etc.
__ The RFP makes sense. It asks for information in a way that reveals good things about the potential client (intuitive, articulate, complete, industry-savvy, process-oriented, etc.)
__ Your company can follow its standard process for responding.
Once you’ve given each statement a rating, add ’em up.
A total of 24-30 means the RFP in question should likely get a green light. The client and scope of work sound like an excellent match for your company and its services. You should take the next step, which is to read the RFP thoroughly to ensure that the opportunity is as good as it appears at first blush.
A total of 20-23 may mean you need to dig a little deeper. RFPs that score in this middle zone may either require considerably more work to prepare, or require your company to make requests for alterations in budget, scheduling or approach. If alterations are not possible, or if they’d put your proposal at a disadvantage, RFPs with this score may not be a good match.
A total score of under 20 means there are too many red flags. These RFPs may not be worth pursuing unless special issues are at play. If you choose to say no thanks, be sure to decline by letter unless otherwise directed.
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