Tips and Considerations in Responding to RFPs

Requests for proposals or RFPs are very frequently used in B2B procurement processes. Essentially, an RFP involves a business or government entity trying to streamline and standardize its procurement process by requiring all potential suppliers to provide answers to an identical set of questions in order to help the procurement people on the purchasing side efficiently and effectively evaluate their options.

Securing a B2B contract can mean big business for any company; however, for start-ups and small companies, the demands of responding to RFPs can be considerable. It’s not a process to be taken lightly; however, there are some best practices to keep in mind that can help you navigate the RFP jungle.

Pick Your Battles

It can be tempting to jump at any potential major sale; however, RFPs take a lot of time and organization to complete. They can be very demanding on the key staff you will rely on to supply responses. If you don’t think you have a good shot at ultimately being selected, our advice would be to not waste resources on an unlikely long shot. Your staff has other important work to do.

Pay Attention to Deadlines

Most RFPs have strict deadlines for submission of responses and questions. (The questions portion of a typical RFP will give respondents the opportunity to ask clarifying questions where requirements may be unclear.) Writing for Entrepreneur, George Deeb says, “RFPs can often come in last minute, with tight deadlines for submission (e.g., two weeks). The more complex the project, the tougher it is to pull together a thoughtful response in such a short period of time.” Don’t delay or dawdle when considering a response to an RFP. Given the volume of questions and the need to take answers from a number of business units and compile them into a coherent response, these deadlines can often sneak up on you.

Be Careful What You Share

When you submit a response to an RFP, you are typically doing so outside of any contractual obligation for the recipient to keep your answers confidential. Some RFPs specify that responses will not be shared, but some also say that responses become the property of the organization that puts out the RFP.

When you submit questions to an RFP, these may be shared with other respondents. You need to be careful not to disclose too much information in your responses or show your hand too openly. Be cautious about exposing any competitive data that could work against you, Deeb advises.

“At the same time you are trying to distinguish yourself from your competitors, be very careful not to give away your ‘secret sauce’ in your response,” says Deeb. In some cases Deeb points out the customer may note a unique advantage you say you can provide and will then ask other bidders if they can do the same thing. Clearly that can work against you in a couple of ways: alerting competitors to what you can do and offering competitors the opportunity to out-do you!

Save Your Responses

One of the best ways to make your RFP response process more efficient is to simply save your answers for potential use in the future. You may have one primary product or service that you’re trying to sell. The customers submitting the RFPs you want to respond to are likely to be asking the same basic questions every time with some variation in questions based on their particular business needs.

Save your responses in an easily accessible place, and reuse them. You may find that eighty percent, or more, of your next RFP response can be answered by copying and pasting answers from your saved templates.

RFPs can be a source of significant revenue; however, they are often tedious and stressful for smaller organizations. When staff time is limited and key resources are already stretched thin, it’s important to be selective with which RFPs to respond to and to make the process of completing the responses you do submit as efficient as possible.

Have you discovered any best practices in responding to RFPs?

 

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About Us

Strategic Communications, LLC, works with B2B clients to help them achieve their goals through effective content marketing and management with both internal and external audiences. We are adept at evaluating and analyzing communication efforts and working with clients to plan, create and publish high-quality, unique content, through both on- and offline media to achieve desired results. Our background in business journalism, marketing, PR/media relations and online communications makes us well-positioned to serve the needs of 21st-century marketers.

We serve clients who are looking for help creating content for a wide array of channels—from social media posts to full-length manuscripts, and everything in between. We focus primarily on service-related B2B topics and work with a number of independent consultants interested in building their thought leadership through online channels. For ongoing content management, our first step is to fully understand your goals, objectives and competitive landscape.

Then we’ll conduct a thorough analysis and assessment of your digital presence, compared to competitors, and recommend a communication strategy to achieve your goals. But, we also regularly take on individual projects – white papers, blog posts, contributed articles, etc. If you’re interested in learning more, let us know!

(Strategic Communications is certified as a Woman-Owned Business Enterprise through the Wisconsin Department of Administration.)

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