Most RFP issuers prefer to work with companies they know and trust. So, in most cases, the odds of winning an RFP you discover on a portal are slim. To assess your relationship, start with these questions:
How well do you know the prospect? Do you understand the issuer’s strategic needs, pain points and business drivers? Can you build a proposal that offers value beyond meeting the base requirements?
How well does the prospect know your team and capabilities? Have you worked together in the past? If yes, was that a positive or negative experience? Are there decision makers or influencers who will advocate for you? On the flip side, do you have detractors in the prospect organization?
How good is your fit? Do you share similar values? Does the prospect run a fair and transparent evaluation process? Do they appreciate value—or is price the overriding factor? Do they have a reputation for suing or for not paying contractors?
In some situations, a prior relationship is less important. For example:
A robust industry presence will attract unsolicited RFPs. In fact, the prospect may have researched your company and know more about you than you do about them.
If your capabilities are unique or highly regarded, a prospect may be happy to provide additional information to make you comfortable bidding. This is especially true with private sector prospects.
What do you know about the project?
Are the requirements familiar? Have you completed similar projects for the same or similar clients? Have you discussed the project with the prospect? Or (ideally) did you have a hand in shaping the RFP?
Are you confident in your capability? Assuming you understand the challenges well, are you confident you can meet them? Beyond being capable, can you add significant value?
What about profitability? Are you confident the project will exceed your minimum profit threshold—or, is this likely to be a marginally profitable project?
To increase your project knowledge, explore these two options:
Does the process allow you to learn more? As noted above, private sector issuers tend to be more flexible than governments in proving additional information.
Can you deal with unknowns through contracting? Do the RFP rules allow you to structure your offer to manage risks? If the RFP doesn't include a pro forma contract, will the prospect share its standard terms and conditions?
The value of pre-RFP discovery
The assessment questions above are often hard to address once an RFP is issued—which shows how important it is to identify and work upstream of large opportunities. Please see our post on managing pre-RFP discovery.