Boardroom Metrics provides RFP Response and Business Writing expertise to clients in the United States, Canada and Europe.
The Secret of Responding to an RFI, RFP, RFQ
There are organizations, even very large ones in Europe and North America, who struggle to respond to RFIs, RFPs, and RFQs in an effective and compelling way.
You might think that the key challenges to an affective response stem from the complexities within an organization – like collecting, organizing, and coordinating the inputs. However, this is not the main source of the struggle.
The main source of the struggle is the simple ‘know-how’ of writing a response. RFP responses must be written in a way that makes sense to the issuer and complies with all of the mandatory requirements – requirements that are unique to every proposal.
The Differences Between RFI’s, RFP’s and RFQ’s
To begin addressing some of the key challenges many companies face, let’s start with the definitions of some basic concepts.
There are, of course some basic differences between and RFI, RFP and RFQ. These differences, and their impact on how to respond are an important starting place.
The fundamental principles described below, are widely accepted across the globe.
1 – RFI (Request for Information). An RFI is typically used by procurement agencies and government bodies to identify what is on the market, what the current market conditions are, and who are the companies providing the required products and services.
In other words, an RFI does not result in a contract, but helps the RFI issuer gather enough information to subsequently release an RFP.
Responding to an RFI is a great opportunity to influence the content, the methodologies, and the expectations of the coming RFP.
Writing an RFI response is the most flexible way to demonstrate compelling values and unique capabilities of a company
2 – RFP (Request for Proposal). An RFP on the other hand, can be a very comprehensive document and varies greatly in type, size, and content.
The main purpose of an RFP is to obtain the best value for the issuer’s business.
By best value I mean the overall value of the products and services in exchange for the price paid.
The evaluation criteria of an RFP are heavily commercially driven.
Responding to an RFP is often resource intensive and extremely time-consuming.
RFPs are often prepared by a Procurement Department and not by the actual user of a product or service.This frequently results in these proposal requests being released at the last minute without allowing sufficient time to respond to them.
3 – RFQs (Request for Quote). RFQ’s have been used for tangible, ‘off-the-shelf’ products with preset specifications, widely available in the market place.
Today, RFQs, are primarily used to simplify the bidding process and qualify vendors and suppliers by one criteria only: price.
Use of RFQ’s has been gaining momentum in recent years. You can xpect to see more RFQs in the near future.
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How to Proceed When Invited to Participate in an RFI, RFP or RFQ.
1 – Determine why you might respond and what your objectives are.
Most organizations respond to RFP’s because they want to win more business. However, there are many other benefits that should be considered:
- Customer insight
- Product insight and feedback
- Market visibility
- Customer relationship building
- Strategic Partnership building with other suppliers
In other words, it is critical to determine the reasons for responding in clearly defined terms and objectives.
The most common mistake organizations make is not defining their objectives before responding. Sometimes those objectives are not as simple as just winning business.
2 – Formalize your process for making the decision to respond or not respond.
This decision should not be an intuitive one.
It should be rational, based on the capabilities of the company and its resources not only to respond, but also in delivering and implementing the mandatory requirements.
Making such a decision, involves bringing the right people together within an organization (composition); ensuring that all options are discussed (context); enhancing the communication among these people to avoid groupthink (communication); and also controlling the process to stay on course towards the desired outcome (control).
3 – Define a customized, specific strategy for how to respond.
Too often, organizations fall into the ‘cut and paste’ trap – treating every issuer and ever issuer’s needs in the same way. Obviously, this is a mistake. The only way to rectify it is by treating every issuer and their needs as being unique. This starts by reading each Request very carefully from beginning to end, then defining a customized set of goals and strategy for responding.
This strategy defines the best, specific elements that must be included in the response to both meet the issuers needs and the organizations goals for responding. Without a strategy and focus, responses become wordy documents without the relevant content.
Let’s remember “not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” – Albert Einstein.
4 – Write effectively to match the issuer’s needs and the value you provide.
Aiming for quantity, and providing a vast number of irrelevant benefits rather than describing a company’s key values in simple terms is not only time-consuming for the responder, but buries the true values that differentiate a company from its competitors.
Effective writing also involves matching the language of the issuer in order to make sure that the key messages and values are not only best presented, but respond to the inquiries in a direct and uncomplicated way.
One of the most common mistakes that responding organization’s make is failing to meet even the minimum, mandatory requirements. This is seldom because the company is not capable of delivering on them. Rather, it’s a failure to read the document carefully.
This is also the area where a professional can help to quality control the content of the document and avoid compliance issues.
Summary – Responding to RFP’s, RFI’s, RFQ’s
RFIs, RFPs, and RFQs are a common part of the everyday business development process in successful organizations. Responding effectively is a commitment requiring talent and resources. Many organizations choose to fulfill that requirement internally. However, many others prefer to outsource their RFP commitment to professionals.
Regardless of business or industry, someone who specializes in responding to RFI’s, RFP’s and RFQ’s can help simplify the process and offer real value in defining objectives, identifying the relevant benefits, and use the language appropriate to create a dynamic response.
Many clients confirm over and over again that hiring an outside professional, an objective RFP writer was just what they needed to get their proposal response strategy back on the winning track.