5 Rules For Bidding on Contracts

  • By Debbie Ouellet
  • 09 Dec, 2016

Improve your chances of winning RFPs by following these 5 rules.

Winning a new contract can have a huge impact on the financial health of your business. If you want to improve your chances of winning when responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs), here are 5 rules to help you along.

Stop. Think. Plan.

One of the biggest mistakes that I see when companies bid on contracts is that they start out something like this. The RFP(Request for Proposal)document comes in and someone books a meeting of the people involved in the response. They carve out the questions to different people, assign one person to write the response and everyone goes off to do their part.

While that’s not bad as step two, too often the first most important step is missed. The first step should always be to ask yourself, “What’s it going to take to win this contract?” Start by understanding what your strategy to win is. How will you position your solution and your company in the response? When you do that first, it will impact how you answer questions, and how you present and price your solution. You’ll also come up with a stronger RFP response and increase your chances of winning.

Lose your ego.

Your client doesn’t care about how big you are, how great your widget is, or how many awards you’ve won. What they really want to know is:

  • how you’re going to make their job easier
  • how you’ll help them solve that nagging problem
  • or carve away at costs so that they can meet their budget

Sure; you’ll get around to talking about yourself, but never lead with it. Make the focus of your RFP proposal all about your client and how your solution is going to help them.

Forget the fluff.

There is always the temptation, especially when the timing of an RFP coincides with a busy time in your business, to copy and paste content from marketing material as part of your response.

You’ll tell yourself that it saves time. And somewhere amongst all that wonderful marketing lingo, it does answer the question posed in the RFP. Though it may save time for you, it adds time for the reader (ie: the decision maker).

Let’s face it; that’s not the best way to make a good impression on the person who will be deciding whether you should be awarded the contract. Chances are that they may even miss the answer because it’s buried so deep within the marketing material.

Never bad-mouth the competition.

It’s fine to make general statements in your RFP response about how your product out-performs its competitors. However, never bad-mouth your competition, especially by name. Besides being in poor taste, trashing the competition makes you sound desperate. It will also cause the reader to pause and question your business ethics.

Don’t expect them to do the math.

If you’re presenting an idea that will save money, or involves a different approach to costing, spell it out in your response. Never expect the person reading the RFP proposal to do the math and figure it out. If you don’t do the math for them, one of three things will happen:

  • They’ll be too busy and not bother . A competitor made it clear what was involved, so they’ll go with them.
  • They’ll misunderstand and calculate incorrectly . You’ll either not win the bid because it came in too high (according to their calculations), or you’ll spend a lot of time back-tracking because they thought they were getting a better deal than you intended.
  • They’ll do the math (grudgingly) and get it right . Chances are, however, that since you’ve made them do the work, that they’ll go deeper and perhaps start to nit-pick details and pricing when they wouldn’t have, had you simply provided them with the information upfront.

About the Author

(Debbie Ouellet of EchelonOne Consulting is a business writer and RFP consultant who helps business owners win new clients and grow their business. She does that by helping them to plan and write great business proposals, web content and marketing content.)
By Debbie Ouellet 27 Sep, 2017

Before you respond to an RFP bid or send out a proposal, it’s a good idea to know who will be reading it. Often an RFP document will outline:

  • the decision making team,
  • their project goals and
  • the decision-making criteria.
That’s not always the case, though. Some RFPs take more digging than others to find out what’s important to your potential client. To better target your RFP response, do some research in the early stages of the project. It saves time and effort in the long run. It also provides valuable clues on the best way to ‘package’ your solution.
By Debbie Ouellet 07 Sep, 2017

As an RFP consultant and RFP writer who’s read hundreds of RFPs (request for proposal), there are some things that raise alarm bells for me. If you come across one of these in an RFP, take a moment to consider how it could impact your business, or your chances of winning. You may decide to go ahead and respond, hoping to win a contract, but at least you’ll be doing so with a better idea of what you’re getting into.

Here are 3 red flags commonly seen in RFPs…

By Debbie Ouellet 22 Aug, 2017

When was the last time you reviewed your company’s competitive advantage? Can you state it simply and confidently? Is it still relevant to today’s customer?

Your competitive advantage is that special something about your business that makes you shine above the competition. It’s the one thing that helps a customer choose you when deciding to make a purchase.

Here are two things you can do to add some sparkle to your competitive advantage.

By Debbie Ouellet 21 Jun, 2017

Key performance indicators (KPIs).

If you are fortunate enough to land a contract with a government or large corporate client, chances are good that part of that contract will include KPIs.

By Debbie Ouellet 17 May, 2017

Writing a great RFP (Request for Proposal) response is a critical piece of the puzzle for bringing home a win. However, the way that you approach the RFP process can also have a big impact on how often you win.

If your company regularly responds to RFPs, take a moment to gauge how well you do in the following three areas. If you find yourself coming up short, work at improving in these areas. Pair those improvements with a great solution and well-written response and then watch your percentage of wins increase.
By Debbie Ouellet 05 May, 2017

We all heard them growing up. Those eye-rolling, words of advice that Mom would say ad nauseam: aka Momisms. The truth is; Mom said them because she wanted you to be safe, happy and the best you that you could be. It got me wondering how much of Mom’s sage advice was transferable to running a business.

With Mother’s Day just around the corner, here are three of Mom’s nuggets of wisdom that just might help you build endurance, survive and thrive in business.

By Debbie Ouellet 17 Apr, 2017

You’ve received an RFP, read through it and are ready to begin your RFP response document. Before you start your RFP response, make sure that you don’t fall prey to these three common mistakes.

By Debbie Ouellet 03 Apr, 2017

An RFP (Request for Proposal) has just come out and your company is a perfect fit to put in a bid. Unfortunately, the lengthy document you have to review in order to do so can be overwhelming. Here are some tips on how to review an RFP to ensure that you’re compliant with the requirements…and to improve your chances of winning.

By Debbie Ouellet 28 Mar, 2017

A website’s About page can be one of the most visited pages. It’s often where a potential client will go to check you out before making that first contact. Here are 4 tips to help you make the most out of your About page.

By Debbie Ouellet 13 Mar, 2017

Recently I’ve been plagued by a feeling of guilt for not being busy enough. I know; it seems odd even as I write this. The fact is, I’m meeting my monthly goals and my clients are happy.

So why the guilt? It’s because I have time left in my day that isn’t bookmarked for a project or task.

Upon realizing this, it occurred to me that, perhaps now that I’m my own boss, I’m taking this ‘boss’ thing too far.

Let me backtrack a bit to tell you where I’m coming from. I got my first district manager’s job at the ripe old age of 26. Ever since then, right up until I left the corporate world nine years ago, I’ve been someone’s boss, fiscally responsible for the company’s district, then a region, then the country.

I like to think that I was a good boss for the many staff I had the great fortune to work with through the years. I don’t, however, think I’m a great boss for myself.

When you’re a boss, it’s all about productivity, profitability and results. And, I’ve never been able to walk away from the “measure it and you’ll be sure to pay attention to it” mentality of a boss’s role. Even today, eight years into my business, I measure how I spend my time daily, where my customers come from, what marketing brings the best results and a gaggle of other matrices for keeping me and my business successful.

That’s what bosses do. Right?

I’ve come to realize, though, that measuring success to prove that you’ve obtained it isn’t the same as having success. And, that some successes, in fact the most important ones, just can’t be measured. Like having a rewarding family life. Or giving something back of yourself to a world that needs it.

So, I’ve decided to stop being my own boss and start being my own best friend.

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