Ten Suggestions for Improving Your RFI/RFP Response Win Rate

ThinkstockPhotos-483838014More than a decade ago, when I was working as a recruiting manager, I received an email that changed my life. It was an RFP from our largest client, telling us they had put their entire contingent IT staffing business out for bid. For the next two weeks, I channeled my energy into our response. A month later, our client announced they had selected eight finalists and eliminated 64 incumbent suppliers! Our revenues with this client skyrocketed, and I became hooked on producing winning RFP responses.

Since then, my RFI/RFP responses and proposals have won over half a billion dollars of IT staffing and managed services business. Today, I work with many IT staffing firms to produce winning RFI/RFP responses, proposals, and oral presentations.

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Here are some quick tips to help you improve your RFI/RFP response win rate.

  1. Start early – Many firms wait too long to assemble their RFI/RFP response team.
  2. Commit to winning or don’t respond – Perfunctory boilerplate responses often don’t succeed. Winning responses tend to be highly customized to the specific RFI/RFP and client.
  3. Produce a draft as quickly as possible – If I have two weeks to respond to an RFI/RFP, I want to produce a solid draft by the halfway point, giving me plenty of time to review and improve the response with my team.
  4. Start with the executive summary – Your executive summary should be the foundation for your response. Even if an executive summary is not required, it’s a good idea to start with the key reasons why your firm should be selected.
  5. Focus your answers on your customer – Too many RFI/RFP responses focus on “what we do” rather than “what our solution will do for you.”
  6. Shorter is better – Reviewing RFI/RFP responses is tedious, which is why customers skim responses. Craft responses that are easy for your customer to understand. Make your key points at the beginning of each paragraph. Shorter sentences are preferable to longer sentences.
  7. Offer clear differentiation in ways that matter – Your firm has a lot to offer – how does it stand apart from your competition in ways that matter to your customer? Build a comprehensive list of differentiators, then align the value provided by your differentiators with your customer’s needs and requirements.
  8. Write persuasively – Acknowledge your customer’s needs; detail your solution or process; describe the outcome and value your solution provides; and substantiate your claims with proof points.
  9. Copyedit your response – A few typos and errors can sink your response. Have a copyeditor lined up to proof your final response.
  10. Plan to submit ahead of schedule – Things happen at the last moment: software issues, power outages, family emergencies, etc. There is nothing worse than a response that was thrown together at the last moment. Work toward an imaginary deadline that is one or two days ahead of the actual deadline.

By following these simple guidelines, you will produce better responses that will win more deals.

MORE: How to better manage contignents

Maurice Fuller

Maurice Fuller
Maurice Fuller is president of NewVector Group, a Seattle-based management consulting and training firm serving the IT and engineering staffing industry.

Maurice Fuller
Maurice Fuller is president of NewVector Group, a Seattle-based management consulting and training firm serving the IT and engineering staffing industry.

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