READ THE DOCUMENT!
Sounds obvious, but in my own experience, and in the experience of the many top execs on the issuing side of the desk I’ve worked with over the years, the most common reason that RFP responses fail is that the responding company didn’t read the document. In particular, companies incredibly seem to gloss over the narrative part of the RFP, jumping right to the Q & A part. I say incredibly, because the narrative part of the RFP always tells responding companies exactly what they need to do to win the bid! And a word to the wise: slapping a boilerplate on the front-end of your response just doesn’t cut it. Even if it does address issues from the RFP narrative, you are making the RFP review team work to find them, a definite no-no.
When structuring your response, read the narrative carefully looking for three key “how to win this bid” criteria:
- Their strategic goal: Repeat this back to them, showing you understand their big picture and how you are strongly positioned to help them reach this goal.
- Their “soft” requirements: Assist with brand positioning, promote stakeholder buy-in, ability to adapt to strategic changes – a good (and specific) response to this requirements can often seal the deal.
- Their preferred format: Again, seems obvious, but if they give you an outline, follow it closely. As often as not, the reviewing team will have a score sheet that matches the outline – if they have to go looking for your response to an item, they just may give you a zero.
If, as is frequently the case, their outline doesn’t give you an obvious place to toot your horn the way you want to, use an “Introduction” section or do the tooting in an Executive Summary that precedes your formal response.
In short, make it easy on the RFP response reviewing team by first and foremost giving them what they ask for how they ask for it. There’s always a way to put in the answers to the questions you wish they’d asked.