How does the RFP Process Work (For Bid Issuers)

Your organization – private, public or nonprofit – needs to implement a project, such as building a new website, and you’ve been chosen to lead the process to find a vendor to do it. You’ve decided the best way to compare vendors is through the RFP process since there are many advantages to doing so.

·         Where do you begin the process?

·         What are important steps in the process?

·         How do you know if your RFP is well-written and complete?

If this is your first time sourcing vendors through the RFP process, you are probably already stressing out about how to get it right and when you’ll find the time to build an RFP. After reading this article, if you’re not convinced you can manage this process yourself – we can help you get it done by clicking here.

Discover

Start by developing an understanding of the business needs and project goals. This may involve talking with several co-workers or departments/groups in your organization. Ask specific questions about their needs from all perspectives: business, technical, functional, financial, legal, promotional (marketing), and document the answers.

Gather

Ensure all stakeholders are involved from day one so that all relevant inputs are heard and considered. Confirm there is buy-in at the executive level as well as a budget allocation to go ahead with the project. It’s also critical to have support at all levels – not just at the project or end-user level.

Align

Facilitate a session where stakeholders can reach alignment on project scope, timeline, budget, and more. Take the documentation from your discovery conversations and create lists for the session. Use this time to prioritize requirements while carefully navigating the different personalities and opinions of those in the room.

Define

Define the functional and technical requirements of the project, including the “current state” and “future state.” Once you have alignment from your stakeholder groups, work with your technology team to better understand what type of solutions are possible, based on your existing technology.

Learn

Use professional and personal networks to build a list of qualified vendors to respond to your RFP. This may involve issuing an RFI (Request for Information). Researching the market this way helps you know how many vendors are qualified to do the work and whether they can do it at a cost that meets your budget.

Write

Draft the RFP and get feedback from stakeholders. Iterate and revise until RFP is ready for distribution. Include your scope of work and objectives so that vendors will have a clear view of exactly what your needs are. Get approvals from your financial and legal personnel to ensure the RFP complies with company policy, local/state laws, and relevant federal policies.

Release

Post the RFP publicly or send it out to a pre-determined list of vendors you chose while doing market research and answer their questions. Evaluate all the proposals you receive and select a winner. When two or more vendors meet your needs, consider asking for oral presentations to meet them in person and further evaluate their qualifications and solution.

The are several common mistakes that are made in RFP writing. Most of them are related to the level of detail you provide and the evaluation criteria you plan to use. Your RFP wasn’t well-written if:

·         Vendors submit several questions after reading your RFP

·         The price proposals you receive are unreasonably high or extremely low

·         Proposed personnel do not have the skills needed to perform the work

·         Vendors’ proposal grossly over- or under-estimate the delivery time-frame

Are you in need of help managing the RFP process? Hire an RFP consultant!

The Bid Lab works with clients who don’t have the time, resources, or expertise to write and manage their bids. If your organization faces a similar challenge – call us. Bids and RFPs are our business – all day, every day!

Why You Need An RFP Writer

Your organization needs to build a new website. You’ve been chosen to spearhead the project. Now, it’s time to build a Request for Proposal (RFP) – and of course, you’ve never done this before! What is an RFP? How do you even construct one? Where do you look for help?

Don’t fear. The Bid Lab is here.

An RFP is a document written by an organization describing its need to buy a particular product or service. In response, vendors who are able to provide said product or service will submit their bids to be considered by the organization.

It’s essentially a formal way to post a “Help Wanted” ad. RFPs allow you to evaluate all qualified vendors in a fair, comprehensive and organized manner. It’s definitely a more arduous process… so why should you do it?

Is it necessary to write an RFP? Yes.

You may be asking yourself why you should go to the trouble of writing an RFP. You could simply hire your best friend’s company to build the website. Or, you could just Google “best website company” and ask them to show you why they’re the best vendor for the job. But, by doing that, you wouldn’t be able to effectively compare each vendor against one another, ensure your objectivity, or guarantee what you’re being sold is legally-binding.

Building a new website is a big deal and you want to make certain you’ve done your due diligence. Writing an RFP will ensure that your chosen vendor:

·         Shares your values and culture

·         Has expertise with your technology

·         Is experienced with your type of organization

·         Builds trust through communication and collaboration

·         Can provide  evidence of past client success

·         Truly understands your needs and expectations

·         + Anything and everything you want to know.

Through responses to your RFP, you will have a holistic understanding of which provider is the right choice for you. And, you’ll have done the hard work in the beginning, which will save you time and effort throughout the process. Don’t roll the dice. Write an RFP and know what you’re getting.

Is it difficult to write an RFP? No.

The writing itself is not the tough part. The difficulty comes from 1. Knowing what to include in your RFP and 2. Determining how to write the RFP in a way that entices vendors to respond.

The following sections are ordinarily included in RFPs:

·         Requirements: A listing of technical, functional, and business requirements that your organization wants this new website to meet, and/or exceed.

·         Problems: An overview of the current situation, such as the features your current website lacks, and the  deficiencies they have caused your organization.

·         Vision: A summary of how your organization plans to grow or evolve in the next 1-5 years and how a new website is paramount to this vision.

Why should I work with a consultant to help write my RFP?

At The Bid Lab, we work with clients who don’t have the time, resources, or experience to manage, write, and build their bids. If your organization faces a similar challenge – call us. We are experts on both sides of the equation: how to write an RFP and how to respond to an RFP. Bids and RFPs are our business – all day, every day!

How to Write a Winning Bid

You have to respond to an RFP or other type of bid request. It’s not always enjoyable but it’s easier when you have a solid, strong chance of being selected. What can you do to not just respond…but to WIN?

Almost anyone can respond to an RFP but not everyone can respond with a bid that gets chosen as the WINNER.

What strategies should you follow to increase your chances of winning?

 

READ THE RFP CAREFULLY

Read the RFP and its attachments VERY thoroughly! You may encounter questions that don’t make sense or are repetitive of earlier questions.

 

READ THE RFP – AGAIN

Seriously, this is important. Analyze it and become familiar with every aspect of the RFP Identify the person in your organization who is best-suited to respond to each question or section. Follow all RFP instructions; if it asks for double-spaced type on 25 pages – do it.

 

DO YOUR HOMEWORK

If possible, use your professional and personal networks to learn all you can about the client. Research the client’s history, successes, failures, leadership, and decision-makers.

 

ASK QUESTIONS

Submit your questions to the client and read all answers that are distributes to all bidders.

GATHER THE WRITING TEAM

Identify people in your organization who can help answer the RFP questions. Ensure they can commit to drafting, editing, and finalizing. Don’t give a writing assignment to someone who is leaving for a 2-week vacation in the middle of the writing process.

TELL YOUR STORY

Now, the hard work begins! Sell your company.

·      Kick off the writing process with a session in which you identify discriminators and “themes” that set you apart from your competitors

·      Describe your organization’s experience and explain “where we’ve done this before” by backing it up with evidence.

·      Use quotes or “testimonials” from happy clients and use statistics that, for example, show you contributed to saving your client money or doubled the number of unique visitors to their website.

·      Illustrate the relevance of project you’ve successfully completed to the client’s upcoming project.

·      Include resumes of the personnel your organization would assign to the project and highlight their accomplishments and skillsets that would benefit the client.

 

CHECK YOUR WRITING

Schedule a checkpoint to review what’s been written and identify the gaps. What if you find several gaps – questions that nobody can answer? This is likely a red flag and a warning – hit the pause button. Ask your supervisor to evaluate whether writing the bid is still a good use of resources.

 

PROOF IT & FORMAT IT

Find a “fresh set of eyes” in the office to read the bid. Find a co-worker who is a talented editor or can format the bid professionally. Ensure that your contracts manager or an attorney reviews all forms, terms, conditions, and legal clauses in the RFP.

 

SUBMIT…and…WAIT

Some clients evaluate bids slowly. Be patient! If you aren’t selected for the work, you should be notified within a few weeks. Consider asking the client for a “debrief” to learn how you can improve your future bids. 

At The Bid Lab, we work with clients who don’t have the time, resources, or experience to manage, write, and build their bids. If your organization faces a similar challenge – call us. We are experts on both sides of the equation: how to write and RFP and how to respond to and RFP. Bids and RFPs are our business – all day, every day!

How the RFP Process Works (For Vendors)

Your organization has a service or product to sell. It’s time to respond to a client’s Request for Proposal (RFP) – don’t panic!

  • What are the steps in the process?

  • How can you be sure to respond correctly and on time?

1. Whether you found the RFP or it was sent to you, read it and any attachments VERY thoroughly! The RFP may include questions that don’t make sense. Highlight them and keep a running list.

2. Submit your questions and read the answers the client distributes to all bidders. Most RFPs will specify a date for submitting questions and the client may not accept questions after the deadline.

3. The client may require bidders to advise if they’re preparing a response to their RFP. If so, send them the “Intent to Bid” letter or form by the specified deadline.

4. Check the RFP “Instructions” to learn how to submit your bid. Clients may want bids printed, emailed, or uploaded through a bid portal. This may require you to create an account to log in and submit your bid. Don’t wait until the due date to set this up!

5. Determine which – if any – staff in your organization can help write the bid in response to the RFP questions. If you’re flying solo or there is nobody in your organization to support the bid process, consider working with an RFP consultant. Hire someone who is well-versed in the bidding process and has the relevant writing experience to guide you through the process. A consultant can even manage the entire bidding process for you.

6. Outsource as much of the writing as you deem necessary to the RFP consultant. S/he will set up a checkpoint with you to review what’s been written and identify gaps. If you find too many gaps – questions that nobody can answer – reassess the opportunity.

7. The client may distribute an amendment to provide additional information, revisions to the RFP, or an extension of the due date. Read every amendment as soon as possible.

8. Once the writing is complete, prepare for bid production. If you need editing and formatting help, your RFP consultant will relieve your stress by taking on those tasks. Give yourself enough time to perform a “final” review of the entire bid, including the pricing.

9. Finally, it’s time to submit your bid and… be patient! Some clients will evaluate bids quickly and will others take what seems like forever.

10. Clients may interview a shortlist of vendors or ask for oral presentations. Your RFP consultant can also help you prepare for an in-person meeting with the client.

11. Sometimes a client requests revised cost proposals if all bidders have exceeded what they’ve budgeted for the project. Determine if you can lower your price and submit it.

12. The client should notify you within a few weeks whether or not your organization has been selected for the work. Depending on your relationship with the client, consider asking for a “debrief” to learn how you can improve the next bid.

At The Bid Lab, we work with clients who don’t have the time, resources, or experience to manage, write, and build their bids. If your organization faces a similar challenge – call us. We are experts on both sides of the equation: how to write an RFP and how to respond to an RFP. Bids and RFPs are our business – all day, every day!