The One Question You Must Ask Yourself Before Responding to an RFP

What are the questions you need to ask yourself before deciding whether or not to respond to an RFP or RFQ?

That was what I had originally envisioned for this post. A list of questions to consider before you commit to expending the time (as well as covering the hard costs for travel, etc.) associated with a serious RFP response. Maybe even ten questions. After all, people do like lists.

As I got into it, however, I started thinking about how I have come to approach this decision-making process over the years. And I realized that all of the questions I had in mind were really just variations on one big question:

Why would the client choose your firm over other respondents?

For example:

If it is an out-of-town project, and there are qualified local firms that offer the requested services, why would the client choose you over the local options?

Is it the continuation of an ongoing project, or the implementation of a plan that was developed by another firm? If so, why would the client choose you over the firm with previous experience on the project?

If you didn’t help the client write the RFP, and it looks as though someone else did, why would they choose you over the firm that gave them the assistance?

If it is a price-sensitive client, and your firm charges premium fees, why would they choose you over the less expensive alternatives? Can you make a compelling case for why your services are worth more? Do they even have the ability to take that into account? Or are they required to hire the low bidder?

Are there other firms who have done this exact same type of project for organizations just like the client? Or even worse, the client’s competitors? Many clients see safety in hiring that kind of familiarity, rather than using their imagination to picture how non-specific experience might be relevant to their project. Will you be able to convince them that it is?

Is the project big enough to attract the attention of “superstar” firms? What can you offer the client to offset the appeal of a big name?

Hopefully you are already on one of these “inside tracks.” You’re the local favorite. The firm that helped them write the RFP. The one who worked with their competitors. Or even the superstar firm. Even if you are, however, you need to be aware that there might be respondents that fall into some of the other categories themselves, and you need to be ready to preemptively offset those threats.

And if you aren’t any of those things – you’re just someone who found the RFP through FindRFP, or through another method of monitoring RFP opportunities, and you need the work – then you need to give some serious thought to what you are going to do to level the playing field.

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