RFPs: When do you need them?

The Government’s basic premise for issuing RFPs (Request for Proposal) is to provide a platform for fair and equal evaluation of contractor bids where each bidder is measured by how they respond to the same requirements. To be successful during this process, you will need to provide a persuasive response customized to the solicitation requirements without using an RFP proposal template.

Of course, when evaluating the RFP, it can be quite confusing and frustrating, especially when there are conflicting requirements and requests for information. This is actually quite common which is why there is a period for submitting questions and allowing the government to respond by issuing amendments to the original RFP. Keeping up to date with any amendments is critical to complying one hundred percent and not getting thrown out on a technicality just because you forgot to number the pages properly or some other minor issue.

While there are basic components that are usually a part of a typical Government RFP, i.e., Technical Proposal, Past Performance, and Price, additional sections are quite common along with many legal forms, certifications, licenses, and acknowledgements. This can be put together in a way that is complicated, very time consuming, and confusing to the beginner. Of course, the question is, whose got the time to sort through all of the RFP documents and legalese? This is especially true for small businesses whose key management are typically 100% busy operating the business

Once you’ve been through the process of pulling together the required information and ensuring that it is customized to the specific requirements of a particular RFP, you’ll begin to understand why and when the Government uses the RFP process and what they are looking for in your proposal. You’ll also get a good idea of the differences between responding to a government RFP and preparing a commercial proposal that most likely have an official request for proposal to guide your response or the numerous legal forms and requirements. Since Government agencies have expanding their use of RFPs rather than using traditional channels for acquiring contractors, it is definitely important to access the resources available for helping to prepare a professional proposal and avoid an RFP proposal template.

Many Government agencies require a very complex combination of procedures, certifications, and regulations in their RFP process which can help them evaluate potential bidders. Through this process they are also able to make a case as to how they were objective in their choice of one particular contractor over another. This more objective approach avoids someone’s “feelings” from being the criteria after seeing a vendor’s presentation and instead establishes a more valid rationale for their decision. When they are asked why they chose a specific contractor, they will more easily be able to make a valid case for their decision.

By responding in a way that is 100% compliant with all of the RFP minutia and preparing a response that mitigates the risk of selecting your company, you can stand apart from the competition. Combined with a strong technical approach and experience that is clearly similar in scope and magnitude to the scope of work requirements, a reasonable offer price will get you in the running.

But to win, you need to be able to differentiate your approach and methodology in a way that enables you to stand out from the other competitors. This is where a professional proposal writer can be invaluable. Even with this support, often, as a finalist, you will be invited to make an in-person presentation. This is where you have the opportunity to live up to the information you have presented in your proposal. If you yourself have not provided the input and core content for your proposal describing how you do what you do, you’ll have a difficult time answering questions in a live interview, so it is a mistake to hire a proposal writer that is just going to make up the narrative rather than work with your methods and approaches so that what is communicated in the proposal content is a reflection of your company’s actual expertise.

Successful responses will lead to additional questions which will help you to identify the critical aspects from the government’s point of view and enable you to elaborate to support why you do what you do and provide examples of successful implementations of your approach and methodology. This is why using an RFP proposal template is not effective.

When seeking out relevant RFPs to bid on, often there will be a pre-proposal conference requiring each participant to register, which allows you to identify who else is bidding on that particular contract. This can help you determine whether you want to bid on it or not. Other types of RFPs are more closed ended and are sent out to specific companies and not posted publicly. These are often invitation-only RFPs. This group of vendors can be selected by searching the industry or from issuing an RFI (Request for Information) or RFQ (Request for Qualifications) as a preliminary step for determining what might be the options within the services being requested.