Do’s & Don’ts of RFP Response Writing

Do’s & Don’ts of RFP Response Writing

Many IT service providers of modern age consider RFP response compilation as an integral part of their business development cycle and this surely is a means to gain new business opportunities. While it is a common practice to select an RFP that is most likely to turn into a business opportunity in the form of an IT project, choosing the right RFP to respond still remains a tricky question. Actually, there are many factors to be considered when selecting an RFP and this article tries to cover some of the important ones.

In this blog, we will start with exploring the reasons due to which you should not opt for an RFP:

Reasons due to which you should skip RFPs:

Open RFPs

RFPs are published for the general public so as to achieve open bidding. While this gives the impression of a fair and equal competition, however things are not always the same as they appear.

“Nine times out of 10, RFPs are issued with a favorable contender in mind,” says Nancy Bistritz in the article, 10 Secrets to Help Your Agency Win More RFPs

So it is important to know about the market and especially your area of expertise. What are the latest trends in the market and what are your competitors doing? This will give you an idea about whether or not an RFP is compiled to focus on a specific contender with a specific range of products. Your marketing cell has to be strong enough to sniff if this is indeed the case, and once you have got the hint it is probably wise to leave the RFP and expend your time and energy on other opportunities in the market.

Graham French describes the same in the article, 'RFPS – LOVE ‘EM OR LEAVE ‘EM?' by saying:

“Experience tells us that if an RFP arrives unexpectedly without any prior involvement from us we stand a very small chance (10% -15%) of winning the business. If you aren’t involved in discussions with the buying organisation before the RFP arrives your chances of success are so very small that you should ‘not bid’ and save the time and expense.”

No reference in the Company

As discussed earlier, if you don’t have any reference inside the company there is very less chance for you to stand out in the RFP process.

You have to complete your homework before starting on an RFP Response. In a brilliant little book entitled “Why RFP Sucks?” Tom Searcy (of counsels, thinking hard before responding; ask yourself, he says:

“Do we know anyone within this buying company? Does anyone in our company know his peers in their company? Does our CEO know their CEO or does our CFO know their CFO? Do we know any former employees? Any board members? …If you don’t… think about skipping this RFP. You won’t be able to present yourself in your best light”.

According to the experts, having a reference is very important in effectively placing your response against an RFP. If you don’t have any connections or links that can help you get insight about the RFP, budget, and the intentions then there is a bright chance of you being last in the race. Hence skipping the RFP might be a better idea.

Company or Project does not matches your skillset

The company’s main business and the nature of the project for which they have released an RFP are also deciding factors in going for an RFP or not. If you have to take up a project outside your comfort zone it will be difficult to deliver efficiently while generating profit.

One of the greatest drawbacks that you will face when going for an alien project will be that you will not be able to quote your previous project experience in the RFP response as your strength. Also the putting your project team in a project requiring expertise that does not match your team skillset increases the risk factor will.

Vague requirements with insufficient communication channel for queries

Most of the time the RFP comes with very unclear requirements creating a lot of confusion while compiling the execution plan and costing. On top of this, if the RFP Company is very reluctant to respond or the point of contact of this RFP is not able to satisfy your queries then a quantifiable aspect of this RFP will be a waste of the energy and effort of your RFP response team.

Another major setback will come in the shape of a cost that is not competitive enough. The reason will be unclear requirements leading to unclear costing.

Deane Barker opines in Everyone Wants a Number that:

“Your number is only going to be as accurate as your requirements. Good requirements = accurate number.”

Tight Timeline for submission

It does not matter how relevant an RFP is to your skillset, if it has arrived late it will be better to skip for at least two reasons:

  • Haste makes waste. Less time to respond will most definitely mean that the output is less organized which could result in rejection of the response or in the worst case scenario it can result in defamation of your company if you have mistakenly missed out important requirements or have over-committed deliverables that will be impractical in terms of execution.
  • If the Company already has a favorable contender in mind they will ideally make it public at a later stage so they get less response and less competition.

These were some of the reasons for refusing an RFP, in my next blog I will talk about how to approach an RFP response. Till then do make sure to watch out for these factors while considering an RFP, and don’t opt for an RFP that could cost you more than you are willing to bargain for.

Zaheer Abbas's picture
Senior Manager IT Projects & Service Delivery at Systems Limited with over 10 years of experience in IT and Project Management, Muhammad Zaheer Abbas is based in Lahore and is a regular contributor of the Systems Limited Blog.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way represent the views of Systems Limited, or any other entity related to Systems Limited.

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