Posted December 10, 2019
Few business activities are as challenging – yet as vital – as answering Requests for Proposal (RFPs).
These RFPs represent a major business development channel for many organizations, particularly those that work with government agencies or large enterprises. Yet the typical close rate – or how many RFPs turn into new business – can be dismayingly low. But here’s the good news: organizations can often increase their close rate, sometimes substantially, by implementing a few best practices.
1: Submit fewer RFPsThough counter-intuitive, submitting fewer RFPs can increase close rates and make organizations more efficient. Too often, businesses submit every proposal they can to see what sticks, but responding to an RFP that’s a poor fit is a waste of time. Instead, be more discerning. Focus efforts on RFPs for which your organization is particularly well-suited. Content marketing experts at HubSpot recommend addressing what they call the NBAT, a series of four questions that organizations can use to determine if an RFP is appropriate to pursue:
- Need: What is the client looking for? (Can you provide it?)
- Budget: How much is the client prepared to pay for the need? (Are you willing to work for that much?)
- Authority: Does the person reading your proposal have a say in the decision? (How many layers of approval are you willing to work through?)
- Timing: How long will the client need to decide? (Do you have time to prepare a standout proposal?)
2: Create a dedicated RFP writing process.But what about RFPs that are a good fit? The next step in boosting close rates is creating a dedicated RFP writing process. A good process yields consistency, repeatability, and speed. It identifies everyone involved; what each of their responsibilities include; and guides everyone through producing the proposal, step by step.
3: Differentiate your organization.Most RFPs tend to be formulaic, and most of them are bad formulas. They answer the specific questions asked in the RFP but fail to separate themselves from their competitors. As a result, they may be nearly indistinguishable from other proposals. Instead, spotlight key differentiators – areas of strength where your organization is superior to the competition. Then, connect the dots between those differentiators and the outcomes the RFP is seeking.
4: Write well.Many organizations require the team who would do the actual work to write the proposal. Not so fast! It’s your best writers who should do the writing. The others will be involved, certainly. But the writing needs to sparkle: messaging should be crystal clear, and the document should give its readers no reason to doubt your abilities. In other words, never submit a proposal with misspellings, grammatical errors, hard-to-understand sections, and so on.
5: Get training.Producing a decent proposal may not be too hard, but writing an outstanding proposal requires specific, highly developed and practiced skills. Writers with training specific to proposals will find themselves with a significant competitive advantage: they’ll know what language to use, what information to include, and how to engage with readers in a way that is simultaneously persuasive, impactful, and compelling.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 30 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations. Links: HubSpot, internal