Think back to the last time you wrote a research paper. Perhaps you’re remembering the days of college term papers and MLA formatting. You probably spent hours in front of a computer, hoping that using just the right search terms would bring up the perfect source for your paper. If this sounds vaguely familiar, you likely have all the skills you need to understand how to search for an RFP. Yes, you’re about to finally use something you learned in college! With the right tips and tricks and a little patience, finding the ideal RFP opportunity isn’t rocket science. All it takes is just a simple lesson in research, so let’s get started.
The easiest way to understand intelligent RFP search is to think of it simply as a “search engine” that provides an output based on what you input. It’s like Google, but specifically for RFPs. Just like any other kind of search engine, you enter certain keywords that correspond to what you’re searching for, and the database comes back with the results that best match your search.
1. Search by keyword
The main idea in an RFP search is always to eliminate all the bids that aren’t relevant to your company’s goals. The more you narrow down your search, the fewer RFPs you’ll have to sift through, and the less time you’ll have to spend. As such, you’ll want to make sure your keywords are as specific as possible. However, there are shortcuts you can take (also called “search operators” or “search commands”) to help you find RFP opportunities you want, faster.
Combination (and/or) search
Just like it sounds, combination search allows you to filter bids using a combination of keywords (either/or, both, or exclusions). This method is ideal when you’re using two search terms. To show you how this works, let’s imagine you’re a public relations firm searching for an RFP that includes marketing and graphic design within its scope of services. If you search for marketing and graphic design using combination search, you’ll end up with three options.
- “Or” = Either marketing or graphic design RFPs.
- “And” = Both marketing and graphic design RFPs.
- “Not” = Includes marketing RFPs, but not graphic design RFPs.
Phrase search works well when you want to find RFP opportunities that include an exact phrase. You can do this by adding quotes around your keywords, i.e. “marketing” or “graphic design.” However, keep in mind that the terms you search may not always be grouped together in your results. For example, the word “marketing” might be on the first page of the RFP, while the term “graphic design” might be on the fifth page. Try to keep phrase search keywords short for the best results when using this technique.
2. Search by private or government contracts
We usually divide RFPs into two major categories: private sector bids and government bids. Decide at the start of your search which type of RFP you’d like to pursue. RFP search engines often provide sections dedicated to either public or private sector contracts. Some sites, like Government Contracts, showcase only government bids, while ones like The Bid Lab’s own database feature both private and public opportunities. The majority of these search engines do require some kind of login to view the full RFP, so consider creating an account with one you trust. Carefully decide which search engine you choose to invest in. Most RFP databases pull the same content from the same places, but some charge thousands of dollars per year for a service that costs only hundreds on another site.
3. Search by location
Location is an important factor to consider when searching for an RFP. You’ll want to find RFP opportunities in areas where you can realistically provide your product or service. The RFP locations you choose depend on where your company is located and whether you can complete the contract remotely. For example, if you’re a construction company looking for an RFP in Montana, you’ll want to filter out bids from all other states. Most RFP search engines provide a dropdown menu near the search bar that allows you to view bids from only the states you select. This trick is especially useful if you’re looking for local contracts.
4. Review minimum qualifications
Once you’ve searched by keyword, type of contract, and location, you’ve probably begun to narrow down your options. If you’ve found a potential bid, take a minute to look at the minimum qualifications. Ensure your company meets all the requirements for experience, scope of services, and cost. Check the deadline for the RFP and make sure you have enough time to complete the process. (You don’t want to start an RFP on October 10th when it’s due on the 12th!) If you feel that you can satisfy the requirements and meet the proposed timeline, you can now move forward and begin the RFP process. The sooner you start, the better.
5. Ask qualifying questions
Just like your college professor told you, don’t be afraid to ask questions. No question is a bad question as long as it’s meaningful. If you don’t understand something in the RFP or you’re unsure if you qualify, ask! Most RFPs include a section with contact information of the offeror, for the purpose of answering questions. It’s better to turn down a bid knowing you don’t qualify than complete and lose an entire bid you weren’t eligible for in the first place. Always be proactive in your search.
We know searching for bids can be a time-consuming task that not all businesses have the resources to handle. We strive to provide solutions for our clients to keep them winning. Here at The Bid Lab, we go above and beyond to find RFP opportunities that suit our clients’ needs. We pull the most valuable content we can find using fifteen different filter attributes. If you want to see how we can help revolutionize your RFP search, schedule a free, 15-minute consultation that addresses your unique pain points.