Most consultants have a love-hate relationship with RFPs and RFQs. They can be tedious laborious and feel like a shot in the dark rather than a real opportunity. Yet, in some sectors, such as government, RFPs are the process used to find and hire vendors. Some RFPs can take a team to compile a response while others require no more work than your normal proposals. RFPs can be a valuable source to add to your business development toolkit, but it is important to have the right approach. Read on for our tips to help you evaluate an RFP opportunity before you spend the time crafting a response.
Evaluating the Opportunity
Before you respond to an RFP, you will want to evaluate the opportunity. Statistics show that if you have not had any prior contact with a company issuing the RFP, you have a 1 in 20 chance of winning the business. To help you assess RFPs before spending days preparing a response, use these questions as a guide:
- Is it a real opportunity? Some organizations can use RFPs as a fact-finding mission or as a tool to validate their current choice. Before responding assess if there is a real need driving the RFP, and a defined budget to solve it.
- Is the reward worth the work? Some RFPs can require very structured responses, multiple hard copies and a great deal of time and effort to construct. Make sure that the budget to compile a response is worth the billable hours it will take.
- Is the decision-making process clear? Who and how will the responses be evaluated? Will there be a committee that reviews and selects the winning bid? Will the top 3 or top 5 bidders be selected to meet with a team? If so, will this require travel, and additional preparation? As with any proposal process, you want access to people that have authority to make the decision. It is also important to determine to be prepared for next steps if your bid is selected.
- Do you know your competitors? It can be helpful to understand who you are competing against for the business. Your competitors may have weaknesses that are your strengths. If you have differentiations that are meaningful to the RPF, don’t be afraid to compete against larger agencies. Size can be a consideration but weigh it against all factors.
- Is it a good fit? Sometimes an opportunity seems like it was written just for you. You read it and are not only enthusiastic about the possibility of work but confident that you can get the job done. If you are going to spend the time to write a proposal, and possibly participate in a pitch meeting, you should feel good that you can actually win the business.
RFPs can lead to great opportunities for Solo PR Pros. However, it is important to be strategic about how you spend your time. If the opportunity is real and you can compete and win the business, go for it!