This is a guest post by Debbie Ouellet of EchelonOne Consulting.
Winning a new contract can have a huge impact on the financial health of your business. If you want to improve your chances of winning when responding to requests for proposals (RFPs), here are five rules to help you along.
Stop. Think. Plan.
One of the biggest mistakes that I see when companies bid on contracts is that they start out something like this. The RFP document comes in and someone books a meeting of the people involved in the response. They carve out the questions to different people, assign one person to write the response and everyone goes off to do their part.
While that’s not bad as step two, too often the first most important step is missed. The first step should always be to ask yourself, “What’s it going to take to win this contract?” Start by understanding what your strategy to win is. How will you position your solution and your company in the response? When you do that first, it will impact how you answer questions, and how you present and price your solution. You’ll also come up with a stronger RFP response and increase your chances of winning.
Lose your ego.
Your client doesn’t care about how big you are, how great your widget is, or how many awards you’ve won. What they really want to know is:
- how you’re going to make their job easier
- how you’ll help them solve that nagging problem
- or carve away at costs so that they can meet their budget
Sure; you’ll get around to talking about yourself, but never lead with it. Make the focus of your proposal all about your client and how your solution is going to help them.
Forget the fluff.
There is always the temptation, especially when the timing of an RFP (request for proposal) coincides with a busy time in your business, to copy and paste content from marketing material as part of your response.
You’ll tell yourself that it saves time. And somewhere amongst all that wonderful marketing lingo, it does answer the question posed in the RFP. Though it may save time for you, it adds time for the reader (i.e., the decision maker).
Let’s face it; that’s not the best way to make a good impression on the person who will be deciding whether you should be awarded the contract. Chances are that they may even miss the answer because it’s buried so deep within the marketing material.
Never bad-mouth the competition.
It’s fine to make general statements about how your product out-performs its competitors. However, never bad-mouth your competition, especially by name. Besides being in poor taste, trashing the competition makes you sound desperate. It will also cause the reader to pause and question your business ethics.
Don’t expect them to do the math.
If you’re presenting an idea that will save money, or involves a different approach to costing, spell it out in your response. Never expect the person reading the RFP proposal to do the math and figure it out. If you don’t do the math for them, one of three things will happen:
- They’ll be too busy and not bother. A competitor made it clear what was involved, so they’ll go with them.
- They’ll misunderstand and calculate incorrectly. You’ll either not win the bid because it came in too high (according to their calculations), or you’ll spend a lot of time back-tracking because they thought they were getting a better deal than you intended.
- They’ll do the math (grudgingly) and get it right. Chances are, however, that since you’ve made them do the work, that they’ll go deeper and perhaps start to nit-pick details and pricing when they wouldn’t have, had you simply provided them with the information upfront.
Debbie Ouellet of EchelonOne Consulting is a Canadian RFP consultant and business writer. She helps business owners win new clients and grow their business by helping them to plan and write great RFP responses, business proposals, web content and marketing content. You can find out more about Debbie at www.echelonone.ca.
This post originally appeared at https://www.echelonone.ca/5-rules-for-bidding-on-contracts and was adapted and reprinted with permission.