Five Secrets to Winning an RFP

Article by:
Tom Gimbel
EO Chicago

One of the best ways to ensure you’re on the receiving side of new business is to perfect the art of the request for proposal (RFP), an invitation for businesses to submit a proposal on a needed commodity or service. My staffing and recruiting firm recently developed three RFPs with clients in varying industries. As a mid-sized regional firm competing for business against national firms with extensive resources, our challenge was to prove our worth in a national marketplace. Here is how we did that:

  • Assign Responsibility when crafting an RFP that could result in a substantial increase in revenue, it’s easy to have too many cooks in the kitchen. We started the RFP process by assigning clear responsibilities to team members, ensuring the appropriate people were taking lead roles in the project. We also kept the RFP team compact, but diverse, specific to their expertise. Limiting the RFP team to three to five people simplifies and expedites a winning response.

  • Give Them What They Want (nothing more, nothing less) Companies spend a substantial amount of time and energy creating an RFP that will level the playing field for their potential vendors and garner the exact information they need to reach a decision. Give them what they ask for. When we prepared our RFP responses, we were thorough, but simple. We made our pitch early and often, providing only the necessary details to illustrate why our company could add more value than our competitors. Including information outside of the set guidelines may cause your proposal to be bypassed.

  • Know your limits each time we participate in an RFP, we remind ourselves that we can’t be everything to everyone. When we were competing for a national contract with a consumer products company, our client needed a vendor who could provide scientific candidates to support their research and development team. We didn’t have a team like that in place, so we quickly established one. Doing this helped us win the bid. When formulating our RFP response, we were realistic and clear about what our company could deliver. We knew that we will be asked to prove our worth, and overselling without the ability to execute is a swift way to lose new business.

  • Provide Concrete examples while completing an RFP for a national education company, we knew that our past industry success would be integral to winning the bid. To prove our worth, we highlighted the success we’ve had with companies in this vertical. This display of industry knowledge helped us become a front-runner in the company’s RFP process, and eventually prevail over our competitors. we won by providing concrete examples of past success; displaying tangible examples with quantifiable results to illustrate how the same outcome could be achieved at the prospective company; and demonstrating a proven implementation plan that aligned with the prospect’s established policies and staff.

  • Ask for feedback whether we win or lose an RFP, we always ask for honest feedback from the prospect. Doing so allows us to enhance our internal procedures, services and products for the future. Regardless of the outcome, an RFP process will illuminate strengths and weaknesses within an organization, and how it measures up against its competitors. This feedback is an important step in examining areas for improvement regarding internal operations, client communications and service offerings.

Bidding for an RFP is an exciting, albeit arduous, process for businesses, and being skilled at effective selling via an RFP is essential in today’s economy. I’ve learned it’s best to hone these skills sooner rather than later to assert, or maintain, your competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Tom Gimbel is president of the LaSalle Network. E-mail tom at [email protected]

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