RFPs: Maximize Your Strategy and Win Probability

All proposal development and capture teams have experienced the following scenario at some point: An RFP drops, its scope seems to align perfectly with your business, you consider your firm to be the top contender, and your team (possibly with help from outside consultants), invests significant time and effort crafting a response that goes through numerous reviews and iterations.

You expect a favorable reply, but then you receive word you weren’t shortlisted, or were outright rejected.

We’ve all felt that disappointment. Where did we go wrong? Better yet, what could we have done differently?

Here are some steps you can take to maximize your proposal strategy and your win probability.

Relationships Matter. Ideally, firms should respond to solicitations coming from organizations where the supplier has well-established relationships and was aware of the impending bid, or even helped to write the RFP questions. But more often than not, firms invest significant staff time into unsuccessful RFP responses, resulting in wasted resources, disappointed staff and the perpetual question — “What happened?”

Luckily, there are ways to maximize your win probability.

This means some strategic, out-of-the-box thinking is required to rise above the competition. It’s not good enough to check the usual boxes, i.e., answering all the mandatory RFP questions, presenting glowing references or relying heavily on your presumably “great relationship” with the prospect. As we work through our RFPs, we have found two successful ways to approach staffing bids and they require thinking beyond the norm.

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Really Know Your Buyer. As a bidder, you must know your clients’ decision criteria, and how much each area is weighted.  Although there are many areas of consideration, you can count on the buyer placing heavy emphasis on three major areas, including, but not limited to: capability, geographic footprint and price.

Know your buyer and how they buy, why they want to buy, and the price point they are prepared to pay for your product or service.  Also, during the bidding process, think about ways to articulate additional long-term value that may compel them to extend services now or in the future.

Identify and Get Familiar with the Decision Makers. When developing your response, you must identify the appropriate decision maker. These are not necessarily the main users of your product or service, rather a selection team comprising key stakeholders appointed to develop and assess the quality of each bidder’s response.

Your risk in not identifying and meeting with each of the key decision makers can lead to a catastrophic outcome. To distinguish yourself from your competitors, your job before bid release is to identify them by name and title, conduct as much background research as possible and personally meet them as many times as you can. Make sure you come away from any meeting understanding their pain points, know about the other firms bidding make sure they know you and your firm.

Failure to understand how your client buys and who the key stakeholders are on the bid assessment team will likely leave you stranded in “lost bid” land. By getting to know your buyer’s processes and familiarizing yourself with the key decision makers, you will be able to understand their challenges and the overall intricacies of their business.

Remember, the more complex the sale, the longer the cycle and higher the price, but also the added steps and expertise you’ll need to demonstrate to emerge successful. Armed with this knowledge, you can position yourself as not only a reliable supplier, but also a trusted advisor and partner offering durable solutions for years to come.

Ragan Shawell

Ragan Shawell
Ragan Shawell is a managing director at Digital Intelligence Systems LLC (DISYS) focusing on the Energy, Oil & Gas industry.

Ragan Shawell

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