It’s the cold truth of procurement that when it comes to your RFP response and winning new business, you have to compete with other vendors. Unfortunately, when the buyer is ready to choose a winning vendor, there can only be one. It’s like the Highlander series of movies, only far less bloody.
Your products or services are going to be the stars of your RFP response, but the value that you offer doesn’t stand a chance if it’s wrapped in a poorly crafted response. Here’s how to improve your RFP responses and separate your offering from those of your competitors.
Classic RFP Mistakes
There are any number of things that vendors do with surprising frequency that erode the quality of their RFP responses. At the top of the list is carelessness around the copy-and-paste process. It’s natural that people will want to leverage previous RFP responses as they craft a new one, but doing so absent mindedly can create issues.
- In a “personalized” response, a vendor inadvertently copying in the name of another company from a previous RFP undermines whatever other personal touches were included.
- Copying old information might cast your company in a poor light if you’ve made improvements to your product or service. On the other hand, if you’ve lost ground in some area, then copying a response from the past might amount to a misrepresentation, which can create significant complications down the road.
It’s a Grammar Quiz In Disguise
While you might not be drafting the great American novel, and might instead be entering text into an Excel cell (an unfortunate, but all too common reality from where we sit), it is important to proofread your responses. Answers that are sloppy or laden with errors can be a turnoff to buyers, who could feel that poor attention to detail in the RFP response reflects on the product or service being contemplated.
Tips to Improve Your Next RFP Response
When crafting an RFP response, it’s helpful to remember that you are selling your product or service. It might not be your sales method of choice, but you are selling. For buyers that are going to award business strictly on price, there’s little you can do aside from trying to be competitive. For more forward-thinking buyers — a group that is growing, fortunately — the determination will be based on “value.” A value-based purchase considers price, but also considers many other factors. How then, do you convey the value that you provide?
- Make sure you understand the questions being posed and in the context provided. A question may have a very straightforward answer, but if you understand the context around that question, you can craft an answer that not only directly answers the question, but also addresses the underlying concern of the buyer. For example, if you are responding to a RFP for shopping carts, and the buyers ask “How long does it take for your service department to repair a dozen squeaky shopping carts,” you could give provide a relatively straightforward answer about the turnaround time in days. But, you should understand the context that the buyer has had a history of broken cart wheels, and worse, unpredictable repair time on their squealing shopping carts. With this in mind, you could emphasize that your carts come with replaceable wheels that any employee could exchange in seconds, drastically reducing the downtime of broken shopping carts in general.
- SELL your product or service. This doesn’t mean filling the response area with marketing fluff. Instead, focus on conveying value and identifying the key points of positive differentiation for your offering. Procurement teams may be scoring dozens of responses, and you don’t know if your response is #1 or #31. You don’t want the buyer’s eyes to glaze over! Deliver your value succinctly and in a way that directly addresses the buyer’s specific needs. You may have a hundred features for your product, but the buyer may only care about four.
How an RFP management solution can solve your RFP woes
Context, timing, specificity, and impact all matter in a meaningful RFP response. An RFP management solution can help your responses thrive by organizing your team, your thoughts, and your services in a coherent and easy to understand package.
- Assigning questions to internal subject matter experts will ensure that your responses are as accurate and as detailed as needed.
- Having a review process for every question enables real-time collaboration, the ability to view context side-by-side, and an opportunity to check for errors as a team.
- Access to a knowledge base of “canonical answers” as well as details about historical responses will help your team pull up their last response to similar questions.
- Embedding videos or images to explain complicated product features will allow you to stand out from the rest of your competition.
Following the tips above will help your RFP response be in top shape for wherever it lands. If you want to take your responses a step further, click here to sign up for a free Vendorful account.