Tips and Strategies for Winning RFPs

by Justin Grensing, Esq., MBA

market research, marketing researchOne of the more tedious activities that falls under the broad umbrella of marketing is responding to requests for proposals, or RFPs. RFPs are typically issued by large organizations — like large corporations or government entities — that are looking for a vendor for a large expenditure or project. It’s basically a way of telling the public or a specific group of pre-screened vendors, “Hey, I want to buy something! Send me a pitch!” The sheer number of interested vendors they often receive responses from and the need to objectively compare them means they are also telling these vendors, “But…send me a pitch in this precise format.”

The process can be time-consuming and convoluted, but a winning bid can be extremely lucrative. Fortunately, there are some basic tips and strategies that can make the process more efficient.

Be Selective in the RFPs You Respond To

Even if an opportunity looks extremely lucrative, if it’s legitimately not a good fit for your company, you may be wasting a lot of time with little upside. The odds of winning RFPs are often fairly low in the first place. Focus on the opportunities that are most likely to pan out. It’s often the case that you have a typical type of customer, so focus on RFPs from similarly situated purchasers.

Watch Out for Hard Requirements

Some RFPs have certain requirements they say are mandatory. For example, a government entity may have a requirement to purchase from specific types of suppliers. Or a company might require that a vendor hold certain certifications. RFPs typically allow questions, so you can try to clarify whether a hard requirement is really a hard requirement. If it is, you could be wasting your time if you don’t meet it.

Have Pre-Canned Responses Ready to Go

As noted above, you probably have some similar customers, and if you are staying focused on that niche, you’re going to be seeing some very similar questions on RFPs. “The more complex the project, the tougher it is to pull together a thoughtful response in such a short period of time,” says George Deeb, writing for Entrepreneur. “For this reason, you need to have a template RFP on the shelf. Then, when the RFP comes in, you have 80 percent of the standard materials all ready to go and can focus on the 20 percent that needs to be customized for that particular proposal.”

RFP responses aren’t fun to put together, but they can pay off big. The key is to find a way to maximize your time and effort through some basic efficiency strategies.

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