Friday, June 8, 2012

Write a Response to a Private Sector RFP

You've decided to respond to a Request for Proposal (RFP) from a private company. You've got the RFP paperwork in hand, or maybe you read the requirements on the company's website. Now you're wondering how to get started.
Writing a response to a private sector RFP is no different than writing any other proposal, except that you've been given a bit of help up front by having your potential client spell out their requirements and invite you to submit a proposal (perhaps with some rules to follow as well).
The most important aspect of proposal writing is to tailor your proposal for the people who will read it. You need to be able to put yourself in their position, understand what is important to them, and convince them that you have the solution to their needs. So study the RFP carefully, and if you need to do further research to understand the organization that put out the RFP, do it before you start writing. You want to create a proposal that will impress those particular readers and help them make a decision in your favor.
Next, consider the organizations that are likely to compete with you. Check out their websites and their promotional literature, so you can make sure to pitch your proposal to sound better than theirs.
Then gather all the data for your proposal. Of course you need to respond to the requirements specified in the RFP, but you also need to represent your organization in the very best light. Assemble a list of the similar projects you've worked on and clients you've worked for, as well as any awards, special achievements, or testimonials you want to highlight. Get a write-up of the history of your organization, and determine all the contact information and links you want to share with the proposal readers. Consider all the information you want to include. It's always best to offer as many hard facts and figures and details as possible. You might need website links, photos, illustrations, or blueprints; descriptions and prices for your products and/or services; and so forth. Creating a proposal will go a lot faster if you have all the information you need at hand when you sit down to write.
Then, when you have a plan and you've gathered all the information you want to include, sit down and begin. Start with a cover letter to introduce your proposal and your organization. Then include a title page at the front of your proposal--you might want to add on a table of contents and an executive summary of important points later, but odds are this is all you need for the first proposal section, the introduction.
Now, to write the body of the proposal, you'll work from front to back in the following general order: description of problems/needs/goals/opportunities, description of your solutions to those problems/needs/goals/opportunities, and then description of why you are the best pick for the job.
So, describing the process in a bit more detail; you would first write a section that specifies all the needs and requirements of the requesting organization. This should be easy, because you have their RFP in hand. If you know of any additional needs or goals they have not specified (such a desire to gain market share or maintain state-of-the-art technology), or if you perceive an opportunity that they haven't mentioned, you can include those in this beginning section, too.
Next, you'll describe precisely how you propose to meet the needs and requirements you just described. Be sure to explain all the details, including schedule and costs. This proposal section could have a lot of different topics, depending on the complexity of your proposed project.
Finally, describe the pertinent history of your organization, as well as your expertise. Include everything you need to persuade the proposal reader that you can be trusted to successfully fulfill all the plans you laid out in the previous section.
Make sure to use an RFP Cross Reference and Compliance Matrix to ensure you have not missed any important requirements. Adding these to your response can also help readers locate the important information they requested. A structured and easy to follow proposal is one that stands a much better chance of winning.
After you've finished the first draft, get others to review it. Make sure all the wording is grammatically correct, make sure all the links and references are correct and current, and make sure the pages look good.
Then deliver your proposal via email in PDF format or print it and deliver it to your prospective clients. And don't forget to follow up to make sure they received your proposal, and ask if they have any questions.
You might like to know that you don't have to start your proposal project by staring at a blank computer screen. You can get a big boost by using a pre-designed proposal kit. A good proposal kit will come with an extensive library of proposal topic pages, sample RFP response proposals, and tons of instructions and helpful articles. The pages in a kit will be professionally designed to look great, and include instructions and examples of information to include on those pages. Using a proposal kit will make responding to an RFP a breeze instead of a chore.

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