Bid Tips for Small Businesses By Nancy Hofmann, Consultant Business Proposal Solutions BPS-NancyH@comcast.net Phone: 810-278-1451 If you have ever responded to a Request-for-Proposal (RFP), you probably found it to be a challenging experience. So why bother? Because done correctly, the RFP process will lead to increased sales and long-term partnerships. Here are some suggestions that can assist in making the difference between a basic response and a winning proposal. Plan So, an RFP lands on your desk—what next? Consider this document hot; everything about it is time sensitive. If you received an original document, make a copy so you can readily mark it up. Typically the Buyer will establish an internal contact person to whom you may direct questions about the RFP. Be sure to contact only the designated person. If you do send the contact person a list of questions, reference the respective RFP page number and section(s). By doing so it will be easier for the Buyer’s representative to respond with an appropriate answer. Note that when a Buyer responds to questions, they usually send a list of all the questions and answers to all vendors who are responding. On occasion they will also share which vendor asked each question, so proceed carefully. Make sure you understand all of the RFP requirements and evaluation criteria. Know what you will be agreeing to; you don’t want to go through the bid response effort and expense if the work is not desirable. It’s helpful to know something about the Buyer. The RFP usually outlines the Buyer’s objectives and what they hope to gain with the potential vendor(s). Try doing some reconnaissance on the Buyer by reviewing their web site and any current news releases. You may uncover information that aligns your company with the Buyer’s initiatives. Prepare Okay! You reviewed all of the RFP requirements and decided to move forward with a proposal response. On the calendar you have noted the bid due-date. Also note RFP milestones such as: When is the intent-to-bid form due? Is there a pre-bid conference? Is there a site tour? When are any questions due? When will the answers to questions be returned? Next, establish internal milestones. Select dates for internal drafts to be completed and reviewed. Set an internal completion date a day (or two) before the Buyer’s due-date. Use that note pad to create a checklist of forms and documents that must be turned in with the bid response. Compare it against the Buyer’s checklist (if provided) and refer to it often. Determine who in your organization can assist in responding to the RFP. If you are working this project by yourself, contact a trusted colleague who can review a draft. Usually another set of eyes will objectively determine if responses are targeted to the RFP. Document Control Designate one person to have control of the overall bid response document. Identify and adhere to all layout requirements as well as guidelines on font size and style, page limitations, and even requests to use recycled paper. Get the shell document started early in the process. The following list is a typical outline, however each RFP will have unique layout properties. Cover letter Table of contents Executive summary Main body Pricing Closing Summary Attachments Note what media is required to submit the proposal: printed copy with binders and tabs, compact disc, email, or on-line form. Formulate Your Response As you pull responses together step into the Buyer’s shoes. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the Buyer’s issues. Discuss the value of your product or service and recommend a plan that solves problems and delivers results. Provide tangible and factual evidence of all claims through drawings, charts or graphs. Consider including case studies and references that are relevant to the current effort. Carefully review the pricing. Some RFP’s have simple price grids, others want pricing factored out over several years, or volume discounts. Triple-check your calculations and decimal points. In Summary Understand all of the RFP requirements Follow all RFP guidelines Review any insurance requirements, warranties or terms and conditions Mark all milestones on a calendar: refer to it frequently and revise as needed Create a checklist of required forms and sections to be included in the proposal Demonstrate why you are the best choice Submit the bid response on or before the due-date and time Verify it was received by the Buyer Celebrate the efforts of you and your team for a job well done!
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