Navigating the Ups and Downs of RFP Writing
Developing a streamlined request for proposal (RFP) process across your organization takes a lot of time, resources, and dedication to ensure that everything runs efficiently—but how do you handle disruptors?
Even with a refined RFP process put in place, the course of business does not always run smooth. Whether it be internal- or client-driven, here are a few common disruptors you can anticipate, and how to navigate them:
Getting Answers Back to Questions
While you may have pushed out questions to different members of your organization for help, it’s not uncommon to have an email go unanswered. Don’t take it personally though; your coworkers have their own workloads to manage and/or might be out of the office for business, vacation, etc.
To avoid getting caught in a bind, create your own deadlines for responses back (preferably at least a week before the RFP is due), and ask for confirmation of the requests’ details/timeline. If a deadline comes and goes without any response from an internal stakeholder, feel free to send a follow-up email/ask if they have time to jump on a call to discuss. If you still don’t receive a response, see if there is someone else available on their team who can provide you with answers to your questions.
With the exception of pricing, submission day is not the time for significant changes—it leaves too much room for error and causes unnecessary stress for everyone involved. However, if you find yourself in this unfavorable position, it doesn’t have to derail submission day. For one, not all feedback will be applicable—last-minute content you’re receiving might be repetitive or over-ruled by a stakeholder further up your organization’s food chain. Still, you might have to personally discern what changes make it in the final version of the RFP, based on your timeline.
To ensure last-minute feedback is the exception and not standard practice, place a limit on when you’ll accept feedback (e.g. 48 hours before the RFP deadline) and inform all involved parties. This will give you time to consolidate all feedback, check for spelling/grammar, and begin uploading responses (if applicable).
Although third-party technology platforms can simplify the RFP process, they do not come without their limitations. While there are some aspects that are completely out of your control (e.g. system crashes), it’s imperative to familiarize yourself with these following aspects of the tool:
- Character limits: Sometimes clients will create character limits in a tool without overtly stating they’ve done so. To avoid last-minute issues, try copying and pasting a long answer into various sections of the tool and see if any of the answers cut off after a certain character limit.
- Attachment capabilities: Similar to character limits, check to see if the technology platform supports the use of attachments. If it does, make sure to follow any instructions regarding where you can upload attachments, size requirements, etc. Again, it’s helpful to try uploading attachments of various sizes early on to see if there are any issues when it comes to including attachments.
- Tool messaging: Often times, clients will post RFP updates through the technology platform’s messaging tool. To evade missing any pertinent information, get into the habit of logging into the tool daily.
Sometimes, an RFP extension can be a good thing—especially if you’re juggling multiple RFPs at one time. However, these extensions can fall at inopportune times (same day as another RFP deadline, close to a holiday, when key contributors are out of office, etc.,). Additionally, clients may often delay their responses to questions you ask, but not provide an extension for the RFP itself—giving you less time to gather necessary info to craft your answers.
While these deadline changes remain relatively outside of your control, being aware and adaptable can help you avoid derailment. Ultimately, if you remain on top of everything within your means, pushed deadlines are less likely to cause a significant impact.
By developing an RFP contingency plan that accounts for these common disruptors, you are more likely to save valuable time, avoid stress, and ensure success! Looking for tips on how to make your company’s RFP process as seamless and efficient as possible? Download People 2.0’s eBook, “10 Best Practices for Developing a Streamlined RFP Process.”