Proposal Success Factors

Responding to an RFP is not a writing project, it’s a sales process–and we need to treat it that way.

It’s not about us, it’s about them. It’s not about the product we’re selling, it’s about the problem we’re trying to help them solve. It’s not about how great we think we are, it’s about how we’re going to use our experience and expertise to help them get what they want.

Factors that contribute to proposal success

There are three main factors that contribute to proposal success; the effectiveness of your pre-RFP sales effort, solution, and proposals.

Pre-RFP sales effort

Pre-RFP sales effort

You must be actively selling to the buyer in the 12 to 24 months before the RFP is released. If the buyer doesn’t know you before the RFP is released, your chances of winning are low.

Solution effectiveness

Solution effectiveness

You must configure a solution that matches well with what the buyer really wants. You can’t just propose the same generic service to everyone, focus on this one buyer.

Proposal and messaging effectivess

Proposal and messaging effectivess

You must draft proposals that are persuasive, compelling, and that differentiate your solution from competing solutions. Do those three things and you’ll stand out.

Don't pick and have to do all three

In the past, I’ve tried to assign percentages to these three factors in an effort to emphasize their relative importance. The problem with this approach, though, is you can’t say one of these factors is more or less important than the others because they are each critical. You can’t win RFP opportunities, consistently, if you don’t do all three or if you don’t do them well.

** Update **

After I wrote this article, I received a lot of questions and, especially, requests for more detail. So I wrote a follow up post titled, “How to Improve Your RFP/Proposal Win Rate.” It expands on the information presented in this article.

You may also be interested in a related post, “Average Proposal Win Rate When Responding to RFPs.”

David Seibert is a professional salesperson, proposal trainer, author, writer, and business development consultant. He is the founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, schools, and to state and local governments. You can contact him at


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