Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tips on Reading the RFP

Usually, a client’s Request for Proposal is read by one person while sitting an office. The decision of whether the project is doable or not, is based on one person’s interpretation of the document. Here are some tips for reading the RFP from a different perspective:

• Instead of having your mental checklist, saying to yourself, “Yes, we can do that,” try asking “What attribute do we have that makes us uniquely the best choice for this project?” If you don’t have something unique, you likely can’t convince the client that you are the best choice. Hint: No other firm has your people, so there’s a unique differentiator right there. And no other firm has your portfolio of projects. So, between people and projects you should be able to identify a differentiator.

• Read the RFP while thinking like the client. Ask yourself if the client actually wrote the text of the RFP. If the style is different from what you recognize as the client’s style, could it be that the RFP was written by one of your competitor peers? If so, that’s a red flag right there.

• Is the RFP especially detailed or intentionally vague? If much too detailed, it may be that the client has already selected the preferred provider and the level of detail is provided to help weed out others. If especially vague, is the client fishing for ideas? Another hint: If you don’t know the client well enough to get a sense for what the RFP language will look like, you may not know the project well enough to propose and win.

• Look for contradictions and ambiguities and highlight them. You will want to be sure you get any questions about the RFP back to the client in advance of their stated deadline for questions.

• Have at least three people independently read the RFP. Each person reads from his or her own frame of reference. So having more diverse input into what the RFP actually says gives you a better understanding of what the client really needs.

• Can you identify the client’s hot button issues from reading the RFP? Do you know the client and project well enough to understand the issues and why they are issues in the client’s mind? One more hint: If you really know the client and project well, you will know if the stated hot buttons are the only ones, or if there are some left unstated. If you recognize unstated hot buttons and are sure that they are indeed issues, then you will want to weave those into your proposal.

The RFP provides the official window into the client’s thinking and paves the way for your proposal effort. Get the best start on a winning proposal by reading the RFP using these tips!

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