*The following article is an excerpt from Proposal Best Practices.
Do you save and catalog all of the RFPs you receive? If you answer yes, kudos to you. You deserve a gold medal, an attaboy, and yes, maybe even a pay raise. If you answer no, you should start. This is huge (and please notice huge is bold, italic, and underlined because yes, it’s that huge).
What is important to the buyer TODAY?
When you get an RFP, one of the top issues on your mind, or that should be on your mind, is knowing what’s most important to the buyer today. There are many ways to learn this–a relationship with the decision maker being the best. But another great way is to compare and contrast today’s RFP with the last one the buyer published for the same contract.
Figure out what’s different between their last RFP and the current RFP and you’ve found something that’s important today that wasn’t the last time.
Contrast the current RFP with past RFPs
Suppose the previous RFP talks about customer service response times once in the entire document. This RFP, in contrast, addresses customer service response times in five places over ten pages. Not only that, they get detailed; they ask probing questions, ask for process definitions, and require service level agreements built around response times. When you see something like this, something important has changed from the last RFP to this one. It’s important because, in all likelihood, it’s a pain point.
- Is the current vendor falling short or have they totally failed?
- Is there a new program manager in place that wants to emphasize vendor responsiveness?
Whatever it is, something has clearly changed and your job is to figure out what that something is. Even if you don’t, though, you’ve still learned something valuable as you prepare to respond to this RFP; since it wasn’t important before, but it is obviously important now, you had better find a way to address it prominently in your proposal.
Save past RFPs and refer to them. You’ll be glad you did.
David Seibert is a professional salesperson and consultant for businesses that respond to formal procurements in non-federal markets. Dave publishes a comprehensive curriculum of online, self-paced proposal training classes, delivers onsite and online proposal training programs for dedicated proposal teams, and provides proposal and business development consulting services for businesses that want to improve their win rates.
Dave is founder and president of The Seibert Group, a proposal consulting and training organization serving businesses that sell to other businesses, A/E/C firms, schools, and to state and local governments. Dave authored the popular proposal book, Proposal Best Practices, is active with the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), and is a member of the APMP Speakers Bureau. You can contact Dave at [email protected].