Managing compliance

Recent posts explored the need to master the RFP requirements, organizing your proposal using an annotated table of contents (ATOC), and using a competitive solutions matrix (CSM) to manage proposal strategy. Most bidders understand the need to comply with RFP requirements or risk disqualification. A compliant proposal does two things:

  • Answers all the questions. This may seem obvious, but content developers can write long responses without actually answering the question. And they—and sometimes reviewers—can fail to notice they haven’t responded to all parts of multi-part questions.
  • Addresses every instance where the RFP states, “the bidder shall” or “must” or “will” do something. This includes items such as page count, font size, forms, packaging, and the submittal deadline and location.

Compliance tools and tips

To improve compliance management:

  • Use an ATOC to structure your proposal and to track content items. If appropriate, use the ATOC to create a compliance checklist to include in your proposal, to point evaluators to where each item is addressed and to show your bid complies.
  • Paste the RFP questions into the response template. Use a distinct style (we prefer an italic font smaller than regular body copy and shaded or set in a pale colour). For multi-part questions (e.g. 3.1.a, 3.1.b, 3.1.c), give each subpart its own subhead and space for the response. To save space, you can delete this text as part of finalizing the proposal for submission.
  • Get routine RFP compliance items out of the way early by assigning one individual to actively manage these items. We’ve seen too many teams in panic mode close to submission deadlines because the person who handles, for example, insurance certificates, is on vacation when the team finally gets around to requesting one.

Consider stand-alone compliance matrix

Some large RFPs include detailed evaluation criteria, a statement of work (SOW), standard operations procedures (SOPs) and of a draft contract and specify that responses must satisfy some or all of these, when responding to the questions. In these cases, consider building a separate compliance matrix containing relevant text for all compliance items. This will allow reviewers to quickly check responses for completeness.

Where page constraints are not an issue, some bidders include either a detailed compliance matrix, or a more high-level compliance checklist that describes how the proposal satisfies high level requirements with the response section(s) demonstrating compliance with each. Both are pre-emptive measures intended to signal (with proof) that the proposal is fully compliant.

Beyond compliance

When bidding on standardized goods and services, compliance plus the lowest price can be enough to win. But for complex deliverables, such as a design-build project, or a multi-year contract to provide and support equipment or services, or to manage infrastructure, compliance alone is not enough.

This means tackling two situation-specific requirements:

  • Responsiveness: Showing evaluators that you’re aware of the prospect’s strategic needs and hot button issues, that. you deeply understand the project itself, and that you have the required capability and experience to fulfill the requirements
  • Positioning: Distinguishing your company, team, solution and value for money as superior to those of your competitors.

BOTTOM LINE: Don’t make the mistake of treating an RFP response as a marketing brochure, full of broad claims about features and benefits. Instead, develop each as a logical sales argument tailored to the specific prospect and project.

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