What Is the Request for Proposal Process?

Man figuring out the RFP process.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term in passing or you’ve read the acronym and wondered what it meant: Request for Proposal (RFP). Whether you work for a large corporation or you’re the owner of a small business, knowing how to market your goods and services is central to succeeding. No matter what industry you work in, if your organization is looking to take on new contracts, you can benefit from knowing the ins and outs of the Request for Proposal process.

Requests for Proposals are solicitations for organizations to submit bids, compete for contracts and win new business. The issuing entity will specify the required information and it’s up to the bidder to complete the request in detail. 

Responding to Requests for Proposals can help your organization expand into new markets, win additional clients and form beneficial partnerships. RFPs are common across all industries, from medical to automotive to finance, and can be issued by anyone from the federal government to Amazon to the City of Timbuktu. 

But how does Request for Proposal management actually work? Here at The Bid Lab, we make it easy for you to manage, submit and win business using the RFP process. We broke down our tried and true method into the following steps.

RFP Process Step 1: Finding a Bid

If you’re considering breaking into the Request for Proposal space, the first step is to identify the most strategic opportunities. What are your organization’s skills, services and strengths? Where do you feel your biggest opportunities lie? How can you use the resources you have to expand into new markets?

When organizations are new to the RFP process, finding a bid that suits their needs can be challenging. Larger corporations tend to have established teams to handle RFP research and development, while newer or smaller businesses may struggle to locate the opportunities that are right for them due to more limited resources. 

There are a myriad of companies designed to help you find the proper RFP. Some offer low-cost models that use AI to scour databases matching keywords based on your company’s offering. Firms like ours prefer having humans learn about companies and their associated strengths, then strategically matching them with an RFP they have a solid chance of winning. It is important to start your Request for Proposal process right as oftentimes picking the right opportunity is just as important, if not more important, than the proposal itself.

RFP Process Step 2: Craft a Response

Once your organization is ready to respond to a bid, the next step is to create content in response to the RFP. This is where you ensure you, the bidder, can meet every requirement outlined in the request. 

When you’re going through the Request for Proposal’s questions, keep in mind that responses can range from a sentence to a series of attached documents in an appendix. Some may even require you to take action, like securing an insurance bond or getting a letter of good standing from your state office. No matter how simple or involved the question is, ensure that you’re filling in content carefully, being as concise as possible and staying specific to the task at hand. 

This is your opportunity to highlight your organization’s unique value. Emphasize what you can offer to the requester and why only you can offer it. Has your business doubled its revenue in the last four (4) years? Are you efficient enough to complete the contract ahead of schedule or below budget? Were you just voted one of the best companies to work for by your employees? Whether it’s financial or organizational in nature, strengths like these should be integrated into your RFP responses whenever possible. 

One of the major challenges of crafting RFP responses is striking the ideal balance between informing and persuading your requester. At The Bid Lab, we work with our clients to tell their company’s story through clear, correct and concise proposals.

RFP Process Step 3: Design a Thoughtful Bid 

No matter how well-written your responses are, if you want your proposal to gain the attention of the requester, you must package it in an aesthetically pleasing way. Designing a polished, visually focused bid gives your organization extra leverage against your competitors and is a key component of a winning RFP process. 

Formatting and design demonstrate your organization’s attention to detail. The more thought you put into proofreading and perfecting your response to the RFP, the more you prove your organization’s qualifications. 

RFP Process Step 4: Save and Reuse Whatever You Can

After you finish your proposal, it’s time to start hunting down your next opportunity! Managing the Request for Proposal response you create saves you time on future bids. Save your content in an accessible place and refer back to it as you write your next set of responses. This will help streamline your Request for Proposal process for future bids. Remember to always answer the questions being asked of you. Don’t copy and paste content into a bid. Ensure all information is relevant to the proposing entity and adjust your responses accordingly. 

At The Bid Lab, we specialize in leveraging previous information provided by your organization. Once we create one bid for you, you’ll have a great foundation of responsive content. This will make your future bidding process more efficient and straightforward. 

RFP Process Step 5: Follow Up 

The RFP management process is a lot like a job interview: Always follow up. Offer to provide additional insight or materials if needed on your proposal. And, remind the requester that you’re excited for the opportunity to service their needs. 

This is also a great opportunity to reiterate how your company’s mission and values align with the tasks outlined in the RFP. Staying true to your goals helps you clarify your messaging and submit stronger bids. The RFP process may seem involved at first, but with practice, responding to bids in any industry can be an often-overlooked way to grow your business. If your organization needs assistance researching, preparing or perfecting a proposal, defer to the specialists at The Bid Lab. The Bid Lab is available at 1-844-4BIDLAB or respond@thebidlab.com for all of your RFP management needs.