How to Answer a Request for Proposal (RFP) Effectively

Tips for Drafting a Winning Proposal

Answering a request for proposal (RFP) is similar to submitting a business proposal in that the goal is to convince the potential client that your company is the right one to solve their particular problem. An effective reply to an RFP requires precise wording and demonstrated knowledge and experience handling the subject at hand. Requests for proposals usually are evaluated by a group of directors or committee board members with sufficient expertise to quickly confirm or reject the credentials of the companies competing for the specific project. In answering an RFP, you want to focus on your understanding of the client's needs while highlighting your company's ability to meet those needs.

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Understand What Services Are Required

You must understand and answer the concerns and the expectation of your client completely. Remember that you cannot answer the same way for each RFP you receive. Be sure to emphasize what the customer wants and how you can offer that to the customer.

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Identify the Problem and Solution

A request for proposal is issued when a problem has occurred or a problem or challenge lies ahead. In your answer to an RFP, you must outline the skills, resources, and methodologies you will use to solve or confront the problem. Most agencies issuing a request for a proposal have specific requirements that must be met. Be sure to present a clear and concise plan to meet those requirements.

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Consider the Project Scope

Understanding the scope of the project will allow you to prepare the best team, resources, and time frame needed to deal with the issue. Keeping the scope always in mind, your answer can offer ideas and describe logistics for solving the issue as well as offer examples and descriptions of how your company has overcome similar challenges in past projects or, if applicable, in current projects.

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Be Realistic

Do not create idealistic scenarios with improbable solutions and methodologies. Instead, propose real solutions involving real team members. You must include a schedule as well as expectations on when the project will start and conclude. If applicable, your answer may include ideas for temporary solutions in the meantime.

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Offer Multiple Options

Whenever possible, try to present alternative ways to solve the problem. Suggesting multiple options conveys to the client that you can deal with unexpected conditions that may arise from the problem.

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Face the Competition

Don’t think that you are the only one answering the proposal. In addition to pleasing the client, you must also prevail over the competition. Present real ideas of the benefits of selecting you against that of the other firms. Highlight your strengths and try to minimize your weaknesses. And remember: It is all about you; do not directly talk about your competitors.

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Provide Added Value

Present to the client broader alternatives that will complement the specific issue of the RFP. Suggest other things and actions that will represent added savings to the client. For example, list the value engineering options that you can use or describe ways to save money while accomplishing the overall goal stated in the RFP.

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Present Your Team

Identify key people who have experience working on similar projects to the RFP goal. Whenever possible, include team members with relevant extra-curricular activities, training, and other learning experiences. Present an organization chart on the resources, the amount of time devoted to the project, when the team will participate, and when the resources will be pulled back from the project.

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Discuss a Time Frame

Present a time frame and outline specific schedules of how the problem will be solved or how long the implementation process will last. A P6 or MS Project schedule will demonstrate your understanding of the project. If it is resource-loaded, even better.

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Provide References

Identify similar agencies with similar problems that you have worked on and the specific problems and solutions and problems you have dealt with. Describe the key players, project size, schedules, costs, and problems addressed in each case.