RFP Templates - By Saving Time, Can You Lose a Bid?

  • By Debbie Ouellet
  • 28 Nov, 2016

When you should and shouldn't use templates when responding to RFPs.

I’m often asked by sales professionals if I can help them write powerful RFP (Request for Proposal) response templates that will help them win every upcoming bid. It’s true…responding to RFPs can be time-consuming and stressful. That’s especially true for many sales and operations professionals who work on RFP responses while still being expected to deliver in their full-time jobs. And, templates save time and ensure a standardized look and approach to a response.

How a template response can help you save time, but lose the bid.

Though going the template route sounds like a time saver, you'll find that the end product won't give you the kind of results you want.

You’ll end up with a lower win ratio and have to bid on even more contracts in order to meet your sales targets.

Don’t misunderstand ; templates for standard questions often found in RFPs, like requests to show your quality assurance program or problem resolution process are a good thing and should be used.

But the key pieces like your solution, executive summary and related experience need to be written specifically for the RFP and the project. Even resumes for key team members often need to be edited to highlight the experience that is relevant to the RFP requirements.

Here’s why… Most RFP decision makers see a lot of responses and can smell a template response a mile away. You stand a much greater chance of winning a contract when the decision makers feel that you really understand them and their needs. Your solution needs to address their problem, not the average customer’s problem. A template response won't do that for you. That’s especially true when you’re asked to provide a technical solution to a complex problem.

Other ways to save time when responding to RFPs

If you want to save time in the RFP process, you may want to consider your "bid, no bid" process to make sure that the contracts you're going after are a good fit to begin with. Only respond to bids where you have a good story to tell, can meet all mandatory requirements and the potential payout is worth the effort needed to respond. Then you can spend quality time creating great solutions and presenting them convincingly.

(Debbie Ouellet of EchelonOne Consulting is an RFP consultant and business writer 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.)
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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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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Why play?

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These common phrases describe how many of us see our workdays. So much so that time management is a popular topic when you ask business owners where they need the most help. Unfortunately, many look to time management as a tool to help them cram even more into an already full day.

List-making, waking up earlier to extend your workday, getting back to emails in the quiet time after kids have gone to bed…the tips for doing more with the time you have are endless.

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