When your organization has the best product or services, getting the RFP layout of your bid response right can make the difference between a winning bid and losing out on new business. Your bid needs to be 100% responsive to the Request for Proposal (RFP) in question. That way the person reviewing your proposal knows exactly where to look to evaluate your bid correctly.
But this is harder than you might imagine! Some organizations re-use past RFP templates with confusing edits. Others rely on terminology that may not be clear to you at first. Luckily, The Bid Lab helps clients manage their RFP responses every day. And we are happy to share the tips you need to get your RFP structure exactly right.
Keep a list of all compliance requirements, and necessary attachments
The first thing you will need to do, of course, is read through the RFP in its entirety. Anyone who has seen an RFP though, will know this is not the easiest task. RFPs can be very dense. Take the time to check each paragraph carefully.
As you are reading, keep a separate list of every compliance issue you come across. Does the bid need to be submitted electronically or through the mail, for example? Many public entities calling for proposals will require various registrations, certifications, insurances, and more. By keeping track of each stipulation, you can delegate the tasks among your team and ensure that every issue is resolved will in advance of the bid’s submission deadline.
The same is true for attachments. Take note of each attachment that needs to be submitted with your bid. And be careful, because sometimes attachments that you need are not even included in the original RFP, but are added through addendums later in the process or linked to on an organization’s website. The earlier you start filling out the necessary attachments, the better prepared you will be for any curveballs (when a notary is required, for example).
Keep your responses concise, but your structure comprehensive
This may seem contradictory, so allow us to explain. When you are explaining a process, product, or comparative advantage of your team, it pays to be concise. Bid reviewers can easily identify excessive language or empty descriptions. That being said, you don’t want to leave out any item in an RFP’s scope of work from your proposal.
The best approach is to match the headings and scope of work/services exactly between your proposal and the RFP document. Keep the same order as well. Even if certain elements of your response repeat, it is better to answer each and every field of the RFP fully.
The goal for a perfect RFP layout is to make it as easy as possible for your evaluator. Include each item in the proper order so an evaluator can quickly identify the area of your proposal for which they are searching. You want the evaluator to spend their time learning about your strengths rather than searching with frustration around your bid for the details they need.
Incorporate thoughtful visual elements to take RFP layout to the next level
Some RFPs have strict formatting prerequisites for straightforward text, page limits, and the like. The majority though, leave at least some space for the inclusion of visual elements. Incorporating a little creative design into your RFP layout is a great way to help your bid stand out from its competition. As long as the visual elements are deployed with purpose!
Take advantage of visually engaging charts, graphs, and images to help make your point with greater emphasis. This will allow you to convey large amounts of information quickly, in a manner that is easily digestible by your bid’s target recipient. Evaluators also value creativity. It demonstrates a solid technical competency among your organization, while saving them time and effort.
Another way to ensure your creative design adds to, rather than detracts, from your bid, is to maintain visual consistency throughout your proposal layout. Pay special attention and ensure that colors, fonts, spacing, page breaks and other formatting choices are uniform throughout your RFP. This will increase the readability and flow of your document, and satisfy people’s natural preference for recognizable patterns.
Still unsure about your RFP layout?
With the above advice you are on your way to crafting a winning bid with a perfect layout. But if you are still unsure about getting your proposal in the perfect format, The Bid Lab can help!
We help businesses and organizations of all types and sizes, on both sides of the RFP process, manage, design, and win bids. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do, or have questions about how we can help your business thrive through RFPs, contact us today for a complimentary consultation.