5 Common RFP Mistakes to Avoid when Writing Your Request for Proposal

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Dealing with RFPs can sometimes be a demanding task, for both vendors and purchasers. Imagine having to go through 20 responses, most of them having more than 50 pages. Some quick math reveals that you’ll have 1000+ pages of information provided from various companies that needs analyzing. And you must do your best to avoid any RFP mistakes.

Now picture the following scenario: you also need to evaluate everything and come up with reasons why some proposals are good, while some aren’t. And you’re beginning to understand how long and intensive this process can be.

Request for proposal (RFP) writers should make it as easy as possible for purchasers to understand the entire process. However, writers sometimes make RFP mistakes and end up making everything harder to understand.

After previously talking about how a higher close rate can be obtained, today we’re going to focus on the above-mentioned RFP mistakes. We did our research and came up with five of the most common ones you should avoid when writing your request for proposal (RFP).

1. Making it about you, not the customer

Admit it, you started a few proposals by talking about the years you’ve been in business and what great customers you had in the past. Even if this sounds good, it’s actually irrelevant for the customer and one of the biggest RFP mistakes.

Everything they need to know is how you can solve their problems, so before writing anything, make sure you fully understand the customer’s pain points and what’s really important to them. Then, think about your unique value proposition to solve those.

By this, you’re creating a clear message, as well as a winning theme, that must underpin the sales process.

2. Writing a boring executive summary

Some customers will have a lot of questions and you will eventually put together hundreds of pages of documents, but the truth is that nobody will read the entire thing.

However, the final buying decision will be made by multiple people. And by ‘multiple’ we’re referring to users, managers, finance people and many more. But you’ve never met these people, so the first contact they will have with your company will be made through the executive summary.

In most cases, this is just a copy-and-paste chunk of text when putting together the answers, not to mention that most of the time it talks just about your company, not the customer.

When developing the executive summary, adapt it to the customer’s pain points and win the previously-identified themes. It should be easy to read, well-structured and include a lot of headers and pictures, explaining how your solution is the one the customer needs.

3. Not meeting with Key Decision Makers

As soon as a new solicitation is released, the conversation with key decision makers must stop. Basically, if you forgot to speak with the customer, you don’t have any other chance of doing it, meaning that any information you could have discovered about their pain points or other concerns is no longer available. And this is what makes another important RFP mistake.

Avoid this at all costs, as you risk losing valuable pieces of information and having your response go straight to the bottom of the pile.

4. Being slower than the customer expects

One of the things that lead to the most common RFP mistakes is poor organization. All companies should pay a lot of attention to the entire RFP response process, but when it comes to timing, they need to make sure that it doesn’t take far longer than needed.

Start with proper planning, delegating tasks so you know who’s doing what and when. In order to speed up the process, make use of collaborative tools as well: Trello or Google Docs, or RFP response automation software like Kaito.

When you’re done, don’t forget to capture the output of each RFP you write, in a way that makes it reusable, but also allows you to adapt it for new customers.

5. Not keeping the odds in your favour in the Excel matrix

Although better options exist now, the Excel matrix is still being used in RFPs and you have to respond to it. However, when you’re doing it, don’t be fully honest. Sounds a bit weird, doesn’t it?

At first, the idea looks actually simple: if the solution you’re offering doesn’t fit the requirement, opt for “partially meets requirements” and explain why, in fact, your solution is the best. But the problem is that a customer might not read this, as they just put all the Excel responses in a scoring sheet and look for the biggest value, ending up picking – sometimes – the least honest vendors.

In this case, if you want to advance to the next round, you shouldn’t be fully honest in your scoring responses. Still, make sure you can back up your responses in a genuine way, using valid explanations.

Conclusion

To sum up, some of the most common RFP mistakes can be easily avoided, as long as you are aware of them. Also, remember that improving your RFP success rate doesn’t just mean less wasted time, but also more revenue for your organization.

If you’re looking for a formula to calculate your average win rate, we have some bad news: there’s no such thing. This is a vanity metric that has no value to any seller who wants to find a standard against which they can evaluate their performance.

However, there is a way of increasing your odds of winning: making use of an RFP response automation platform. Not only does it speed up the entire process, but it also helps your team work better. And when people work together as a team, they get better results.

For additional tips on how to actually improve your RFP response process, you can also check out our in-depth guide.

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