How to Effectively Respond to an RFP to Secure New Business


Stay Organized With Boilerplate Copy and Templates on File

Responding to RFPs gets easier and faster after you have practice writing a few proposal responses. Once you spend some time writing your scope of services, company background, case studies, etc., you can refer to these for use in future projects. The key to repurposing these assets is organization; your life will be much easier with clearly labeled documents saved in designated folders.

Store previous RFPs for future reference and create templates for streamlined formatting. Most of all, keep generic content (i.e. cover letter, detailed scope of services, industry experience, and company background) ready to plug into the proposal. RFPs share common requirements, so a quick copy-and-paste with minor editing saves hours, even days, of additional work.

Use RFP Language and Make Your Descriptions Stand Out

You know how resume best practices say to insert the job description’s keywords? You should use the same approach when drafting your RFP response by including language from the original document throughout your work. Align your values by using industry-specific verbiage and stick to their scope of services terminology. Doing so adds a personal touch that shows your dedication to this proposal, and the reviewer will better relate to your proposal if you’re incorporating their lingo.

On a related note, it can be challenging to distinguish your scope of services from competitor submissions. After all, you’re going up against other businesses within your vertical. Keep the jargon to a minimum and reach beyond buzzwords to draft simple explanations. Highlight what separates your services from the competition, and make a real case for why your company is the best for the job.

A good test of whether your description stands out is to check your competitors’ websites. If you can swap your RFP answers with their webpage content, you’ve uncovered a major red flag and need to head back to the drawing board.

Format Presentation Is Important, But Not That Important

Yes, you want your proposal response to be visually appealing and stand out as more than a Word doc. However, the content matters more than the presentation — although many respondents get hung up in the visual details. Again, format templates are a big help, so ideally you only have to create the whole branded proposal one or two times. (I personally love using Adobe InDesign for proposals, but advanced Word skills can come in handy here as well.)

Unless the guidelines state differently, make sure your proposals are formatted for consistent branding and are easy to read. When in doubt, less is more. There’s no need to cause unnecessary design confusion for the reviewer or make their eyes strain from bold color or font choices. There are more efficient ways to spend your time than putting most of your energy into the proposal’s presentation.

Determine Your Worth

Like any negotiation, you don’t want to lowball your services out the gate or make an offer that’s unreasonably high. However, pricing is a critical factor in the RFP decision, so it’s important to determine your worth and present with confidence. Work with your leadership to determine a good middle ground that leans slightly toward the higher end. This will give your business wiggle room for negotiations while exhibiting the value of your services.

Remember that the agency issuing the RFP doesn’t solely base their decision on price, but part of the point of an RFP is to get the best bang for their buck.



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