While RFPs can be challenging, taxing, and stressful at times, they’re anything but static. How you write and manage your proposals evolves as your company grows and takes on new business. As such, proposal management involves the vital role of working behind the scenes to reflect these changes within the RFP process. In fact, driving business value begins before you even start a bid. Tasks like researching opportunities, organizing your information, and informing your internal team may seem insignificant now, but they make a world of difference when it comes to your proposal management process. Here are seven ways to ensure you’re making the most of your time when your RFP volume is down!
1. Weigh in on future RFP opportunities
If you’re not actively developing an RFP, start scoping out opportunities on RFP databases. Firms often make the mistake of waiting too long to discover an opportunity and begin developing a proposal. Use the proactive approach of searching through past RFPs so you can see what to expect. Although no two RFPs are exactly alike, you should get a sense of the general structure and requirements that are standard for your industry. Take note of the length and type of questions asked to get an idea of how much time and resources you need to put forth for your next RFP.
2. Develop an internal strategy for RFPs
Most people have a basic understanding of what an RFP is, but few know how to write one. If responding to an RFP causes company-wide confusion and stress, this is probably a sign that your employees may not be familiar with proposal writing. Consider holding a meeting with your staff to go over the “game plan” for proposal management. Explain the purpose of your RFP responses, your process for submitting a response, and the timeline you’ll be implementing to get it to completion. Your team should feel confident and prepared for the next RFP opportunity. If you have any previous RFPs to work off of, use them as an example of the type of language and content that may be required. The bottom line is that you want your staff and stakeholders to play an active role in the RFP process. Why? Because these are the people who know your company’s daily operations and are best placed to increase business value.
3. Create a centralized data sheet
Nothing makes RFPs (or any other task) more difficult than encountering a confusing mess of files. Creating a centralized repository of data not only allows for a smooth RFP process, but also ensures you know where to find what you need. Keep a log or database of all materials that are essential to your business transactions. These could include sales sheets, business licenses, financial statements, or staffing charts. Organize your data into appropriate categories and always be sure to name your documents with titles you recognize. Once you’ve compiled all your information in one place, share the data sheet with your internal team for easy access.
4. Update your content library
When was the last time you did an audit of the content that goes into a bid? As employees change positions and internal processes change, your content library can become outdated faster than you might think. Periodically survey your content as part of your proposal management process. Sending out an RFP with old and irrelevant information can be a huge risk when trying to increase your business value. In particular, pay attention to your references on file. Ensure they’re up-to-date, have the correct contact information, and paint a holistic picture of your organization. Reach out to your SMEs as soon as possible to inform any new content and maintain an open line of communication.
5. Keep your SMEs informed
Gathering information from SMEs is one of the lengthiest parts of the RFP process. Closing gaps and locating the necessary data can take days, if not weeks. Continue to update your list of SMEs as employees take on new roles and responsibilities. These staff members are instrumental in your completion of an RFP, so be sure to maintain a relationship. Inform them of any changes in RFP volume and be respectful of their time. If you have a valuable, trusted SME contact, don’t send an RFP his/her way at the last minute. SMEs are essential to driving business value because of the in-depth knowledge they have about your organization.
6. Perform due diligence
Don’t underestimate the power of due diligence. Prepare yourself to answer questions related to company background, financial information, products, and your organizational structure. During your RFP downtime, fill out due diligence questionnaires with questions you find relevant based on researching past RFPs. You may not know exactly what you’ll encounter when you submit your next proposal, but there are commonly-known questions that most companies ask. Check out some sample questionnaires online and make note of the information you need to gather. Being proactive with due diligence ensures you’re not scrambling for answers about your company’s expertise and reliability when you’re closing in on an RFP deadline.
7. Categorize and share your feedback
Improving your RFP process starts with your internal team. Sit down with your sales team to analyze your win-loss ratio and the factors behind those decisions. Review your proposal submissions for the past six months to inform your responses to future RFPs. If your pricing information has proven to be too high in past bids, reach out to your product team and make them aware. If you’ve identified your client support hours as too narrow compared to your competitors, let your SMEs know. Communication with your internal team is key to keeping everyone on the same page and involved in improving the proposal management process.
As you know, every winning RFP starts with solid preparation and insights. When you’re busy writing RFPs day in and day out, it can be easy to forget that RFPs are about quality content, not simply meeting deadlines. An effective response starts with research, organization, and a whole lot of teamwork. If your strategies to increase business value aren’t bringing in results, our team at The Bid Lab can help! We work with firms like you to find business opportunities, manage and complete the RFP process, and everything in between. Contact us today to see how we can help you prepare for success.