Most bidders know they need to comply with the issuer’s requirements or face possible disqualification. They log every instance where an RFP states, “the bidder shall” or “must” or “will” do something, and follow up to ensure each item is addressed in their response.
In previous posts we’ve recommended using a bid compliance matrix to capture and track these items.
It’s also a good idea to get simple RFP compliance items out of the way early in the response window, by assigning one individual to manage these small 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.
Having met all the compliance requirements, it’s a good idea to include a checklist in your response, so it’s clear to evaluators that your bid meets this threshold.
Compliance is not enough
We still run into clients who focus solely on compliance when responding to RFPs. A compliance-focussed response is adequate in some situations, for example:
- Where you know you have a commanding price advantage over all other bidders and/or
- Where the requirement is clearly defined (for example, materials meeting an industry spec) and the issuer is looking for a price quote only
But in the case of 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 won’t win against tough competition.
In awarding these kinds of contracts, the issuer’s biggest concern is that the vendor can do the job and stay on budget—and a compliance-only response may not make that case. Even offering the lowest price won’t sway a prospect, if the rest of the response isn’t convincing.
Once you’ve managed compliance, your goal is to impress evaluators with your understanding of their issues and the project itself, and why you should be selected over other bidders.
This means managing two key success factors:
- Responsiveness is the process of capturing bid-specific knowledge about the prospect and the project and linking your solution to that knowledge as clearly and as often as possible.
- Positioning is the art of distinguishing your company and solution as better suited to this client and project than your competitors’. In practice this means first understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and their likely solutions.
Not marketing speak
In the coming weeks we’ll explain how to put responsiveness and positioning into action. For now it’s important to understand that an RFP response is not a marketing exercise with broad claims about features and benefits; it’s about selling to a specific prospect.
Are you winning less than your share of bids?