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! Here’s how the RFP process works for vendors.
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 for vendors. 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 vendor 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 vendor 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!