Nearly every bidder understands a proposal needs to comply with the issuer’s 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:
- Create and manage an annotated table of contents (ATOC) 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 line and space for the response.
- 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.
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, 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.
Coming posts will explore responsiveness and positioning. The final post in this series will explain how to add impact to your arguments with visualization.
Are you struggling to win your share of bids?
||Paul Heron, MBA, is the founder and managing partner of Complex2Clear, and leads our bid response practice. LinkedIn