You have an RFP response opportunity. What are the pros and cons of contracting an outsource RFP writer?
Senior managers and executives are keenly aware of the pressures placed on them to produce wins – those wonderful things that forgive a multitude of failures and mistakes.
But just because an RFI, RFP, RFQ, or another opportunity pops up does not mean one should make the effort to pursue the prospect. Should you pursue the opportunity? Do you have the specific experience, service, or product that the client is seeking? If you win, can you execute the contract in accordance with the schedule, budget, quality, and other terms and conditions?
Questions to ask before engaging an outsource RFP writer
Do we have available resources to pursue the response on our own within the opportunity’s deadline?
Can our internal resources pursue the response or are they fully engaged with something else?
Can our internal resources maximize the likelihood of a successful pursuit?
If you answer “No” to any of them, you may want to to engage an external RFP, RFx Response Writer.
The Pros and Cons
1. Advantages of Hiring a Contract RFP Writer
Lower Overall Cost – A contract RFP writer is significantly cheaper than an employee when one takes into consideration the employee’s added associated burden (pension, WCB, taxes, vacation pay, holiday pay, employer contributions) and overhead (business operation expenditures). A consultant can be brought onboard for just the project and can leave immediately after the response is submitted. No need for severance packages or other demobilization costs or for the need to find additional work to keep them busy. Using a consultant also eliminates the need to have employees stop their normal work to develop an RFP response – something they usually hate because it’s outside their normal skill set.
Improved Productivity – Experience and skills matter. Engaging someone with years of experience simplifies the process. Hand holding is minimized, the requirements are immediately understood, mistakes are reduced, and rework isn’t needed.
Improved Quality – Those who write RFP’s for a living tend to write better than those whose core competencies are in other areas. Those who specialize in layout and design tend to know the best and quickest ways to make proposals look their best.
Another Perspective – An experienced RFP writer can give another perspective – a different way of looking at a problem or detail that enhances the response. This different way of looking at things can be a great benefit to the astute manager or executive, who then can use the consultant as a sounding board for developing an even better response. This leads to another benefit that is rarely seized upon but can be of great aid to a company …
Honest Feedback – On occasion, a contract writer can be the “bad guy” by giving news or findings to the manager that a subordinate wouldn’t do, such as whether someone’s performance or deliverables are inadequate or whether some changes need to occur to improve the effectiveness of the response.
2. Disadvantages of Hiring a Contract RFP Writer
RFP Expertise vs Company and Solution Expertise – No consultant brought onboard to help write an RFP response can possibly know all the corporate documents, processes, templates, and other information that an employee is supposed to master. If your corporate policy or standard requires all responses to follow a specific internal document control process; you must clearly delineate the parameters when engaging an outside response writer. This will include the provision of everything the contract RFP writer needs to know about your corporate process, a copy of the response template and style guide that must be followed, and a list of internal subject matter experts who can be contacted for clarification and information.
Potential Disagreements – Managers whose ideas are not constantly challenged by others may find dealing with a knowledgeable consultant problematic because the latter has the first-hand experience on what works and what does not for a type of proposal. Just keep in mind the writer is hired to help you maximize the likelihood that your response will result in a win and not become your direct report.
Limited Continuity – Unlike an employee, there’s no guarantee an RFP writer you contracted with in the past will be available to help within a response’s timeline. A common solution to this is to sign a monthly retainer with the outsourced writing firm to reserve the consultant’s services, or for an identified number of responses per year.
Importance of Communication When Contracting RFP Writer Services
If you decide to engage an outside writer to help with your RFP response, always make sure to maximize communication. The consultant needs to know a lot of things before embarking on responding to an RFI, RFP, RFQ, or RFT. The clearer your expectations, the better the consultant’s performance. This includes specifying how much involvement the consultant will have in the response. For example, will the consultant control the actual master document or only specific sections? Will the consultant be the one facilitating the response team meetings and assigning the deliverables to the different task owners? Or, will the consultant just provide an extra set of editorial eyes or just proofread and format the submission?
Have a kick-off meeting where all involved SMEs attend and are introduced to the consultant and be prepared to answer your phone or e-mail numerous times a day as your consultant asks for clarifications or additional information.
Open communication makes everything better and a better response means a greater chance of a successful RFP response.
Edward Watson is based in Calgary, Alberta. Ed loves complex documentation, and is equally comfortable writing RFI/RFP/RFQ responses to developing thousand-page project execution plans to creating user manuals and even writing poetry!