Taking Small Steps Forward in 2023 – Improving Responses to RFPs

Over the years, leaders of small businesses have expressed frustrations with their companies’ mediocre performance with RFPs.

As examples, leaders’ complaints about RFP business have focused on:

  • low and/or shrinking “success rates”,
  • getting beaten down to the lowest price,
  • losing to larger competitors,
  • staff unable to coordinate internal communications,
  • increasing complexity and details,
  • requests for novel ideas (which end up not being valued),
  • disqualification due to missing components required in submission,
  • other embarrassing errors that signal lack of diligence, and
  • heavy loads of last-minute activity…rushing to meet the time deadlines.

On occasion, leaders of small businesses reminisce about the “early days” when the leader personally handled RFPs and success rates were much higher. Those comments often lead to critical comments about staff who “just don’t care enough, anymore”.

Leaders can describe the problems they are experiencing

When asked about steps that have been taken to improve performance for responding to RPFs, leaders describe initiatives, including (as examples):

  • setting company and individual staff goals for RFP performance improvement,
  • performing all-hands-on-deck reviews of RFP process/procedures,
  • employing audits of successes and failures,
  • injecting new CRM systems, and
  • talking with the people/clients/prospective clients who create and issue RFPs.

All of these appear to be good steps forward, however, they have not reduced leaders’ frustrations.

Taking Small Steps Forward in 2023

Small businesses have limited resources and must use their resources efficiently and effectively. Decisions, including decisions about RFP responses need to be simple and clear. Roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authority need to be simple and clear,

Small Step: Obtain input from the person who is charged with ensuring the RFP response is completed properly. Be prepared – others in the organization may view this person as an obstacle to success. If no person claims responsibility for completing RFP submissions then select someone for the role. After talking with the person charged with overall responsibility for success, obtain input from each person involved in contributing to RFP responses. Do this with roles, responsibilities, authorities, goals, and rewards in mind. Gather information – input for improvements.

Small Step: Create a simple and clear process for responding to RFPs. If the leader has ‘early days’ experience with RFPs then he/she should describe how he/she succeeded with RFP responses. If the leader does not have ‘early days’ RFP success experiences then he/she should listen well. To the extent the talents and strengths required for success with RFPs exist in staff, those talents and strengths must be understood. Gather information – input for improvements.

Small Step: Create a complete ‘library’ of information/data that has been used to create responses to RFP. Do this with three goals in mind –

  1. Injecting Efficiency: Consider how RFP response processes can be improved/automated. Consider the value of customized software, specifically designed for your RFP needs.
  2. Injecting Effectiveness: Apply concepts like the 80/20 Rule to know the potential value each part of your RFP response contributes. Focus your innovative/creative thoughts on the 20% of content that delivers 80% of the value.
  3. Injecting Extra Value: Create a unique proposition, a “differentiator” you can offer to the client/prospective client that your competitors can not or will not offer. This will energize your response and pave the path for your success.
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