Win more RFPs — 6 Tips for SMBs

In the current difficult economic climate, it has never been more important for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) dealing with RFPs to optimize their processes.  

Here we highlight six tips for SMBs to improve their RFP response process and get more RFP wins on the board. 

Note, while this advice is provided in the context of RFP responses, these suggestions are equally applicable in the case of RFI (Request for Information) responses.

Tip1: Ensure you have the right team members on the job

Usually, an RFP response needs someone to coordinate the response (sometimes called the ‘bid manager’), as well as contributions from individual subject-matter experts (SMEs). This could be software engineers, finance people, HR advisors — virtually anyone in the company depending on what the RFP asks for. 

It is important that every RFP response has an approved team structure in place and that line managers are aware of the time demands this will place on their direct reports. 

For SMBs without the subject matter specialist they need, it may be worth considering whether to contract someone in for support. 

While this is partly about resource allocation, it is also about accountability. You need to ensure that the right people are responsible for the right parts of the process. 

Tip2: Touch base with the issuing company if you have any questions

Some SMBs seem not to realize that there is usually a time window after an RFP is released where potential bidders can approach the company and ask for clarification. This can be useful for: 

  • Getting clarification on vague  questions
  • Discussing timelines  — SMBs may be able to push back on any unrealistic deadlines
  • Getting a sense of which  factors will be weighed most heavily by the issuing company in their assessment. 

Tip 3: Have a robust content management system in place 

 RFPs are rarely  'one-of-a-kind’ — while specific elements change from RFP response to RFP response, there will be significant elements that are common across RFP responses: Think project descriptions, team bios, key organizational diagrams and past client testimonials. 

To streamline your process, it is therefore crucial to have a system for managing that documentation and being able to quickly draw relevant information from it. 

 Additional benefits ofhaving the right CMS in place include: 

  • Improved collaboration  — keep track of which changes are being made by which team member
  • Version control — ensure that everyone is working on the latest version of the RFP response. 

Tip4: Track your prior wins/losses

Every time you succeed or fail in an RFP process there is a reason. And, in many cases, you will be told, or be able to infer, what led to your success or failure. You need to have a system in place to ensure that this information is recorded, and that you utilize this intel in your future RFP responses. 

You shouldn’t lose an RFP twice for the same reason. 

 When you monitor your own RFP performance, you can also: 

  • Make better decisions about resource allocation in future (if you lose software RFPs where you lacked a technical SME, you may know you need to contract one in future)
  • Set benchmarks for future performance
  • Train new team members in how to better respond to RFPs based on hard performance data. 

Tip5: Effectively prioritize applications

With limited resources, an SMB must ensure that it prioritizes the right RFPs for response. Using the performance information mentioned in Tip 4, a company should be able to better identify the RFPs it has the best chance of winning. 

Alongside the likelihood of success, it is important to weigh potential applications based on how they align with your core business strategy, and whether they might be the basis for a longer-term strategic relationship: Where there is the potential for a lucrative long-term relationship you may be willing to take more of a financial hit on the current proposal. 

Tip6: Invest in the right software

The biggest potential efficiency gain across most SMB processes is automating otherwise manual processes. RFP project management is no different. 

RFP software is now available which can streamline the RFP process by: 

  • Suggesting text inclusions based on prior responses. These can be accepted, rejected or edited as  appropriate (much as you would with a tool like Grammarly)
  • Ensuring consistency in your branding. Reduce the risk of ‘too many cooks’, through RFP software  ensuring a consistent voice and brand, despite multiple contributors
  • Providing a secure repository of RFP responses, meaning prior responses are always available to be drawn  on
  • Integrating with other software you use including content management, project management and automation  tools
  • Checking off responses across  key compliance requirements
  • Automatically keep a record of the outcome of prior RFPs so the ‘bid team’ can improve its response next  time. 

Final thoughts 

The RFP process can be daunting for time and cost-conscious SMBs. To succeed on RFPs it is important to have the right team around you, to monitor your own past performance, to prioritize realistic RFPs, to clarify any ambiguities early on, and to implement the right RFP tech tools




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