How do I respond to an RFP?

Are you in the proposal writing business? I didn’t think you were making money writing proposals.

If not, then you shouldn’t be answering RFPs.

RFPs, or Request for Proposals, is something as a freelancer or consultant you should stay away from. An RFP is a document that talks about a project and asks you to write a proposal on how to solve it.

In the previous two episodes you learned to protect your sales process, and ultimately your business, by only pushing value buyers and those that give you a firm “yes” at the end of the sales call to the proposal stage.

RFPs are the complete opposite of this.

In short, responding to an RFP, have you reading through a document explaining the project from the perspective of the company and then drafting up a proposal with your time estimates, milestones, due dates, company history, and questions you have to bid on the project.

Then that company shows all the responses and selects what they feel is the best option.

If you are responding to RFPs, this is the epitome of the proposal writing business.

If a buyer presents to you an RFP, full stop. Protect your time! Protect your profits!

Simply say “Before we get into this – It’s not your policy to do speculative work.”

Because that’s what an RFP is, speculative.

You are speculating on the project based on what is in that document. You have no customer input, surveys, data or your own research to help you build a proper solution to the problem.

How to speak with a lead that insists on responding to an RFP?

Ask them if they are a gambler?

“How important is this project to you?”

“What is it worth to you to solve the problem?”

These are appropriate questions to ask the lead that insists on the RFP process.

The lead has to be a gambler, otherwise, they wouldn’t be hanging themselves out there asking companies to build and present solutions without any conversations and research into the problem, for free.

These 2 questions, refocuses the conversation you are having for the lead to get clarity around the project and what they are asking you to do.

You can further pursue it by elegantly and tactfully asking if the other companies pitching:

  • Have these companies interviewed customers
  • Have these companies interviewed sales to see what the challenges are

“Chances are that you are going to say no. And since you are asking people for free work, they are just going to come up with answers on their own. They might hit it, but they might not. That’s why I asked if you are a gambler or not.”

Explain why you do what you do

Take some time and explain why your process is important to them and solving their specific problem.

This is where that clarity can hit them like a ton of bricks. Because here you can emphasize that you can give them a cookie cutter solution, but what happens when that doesn’t work.

They will have to then go back to whoever approved the bid and backtrack.

Explain to them that without your process, what they are asking is for companies to answer from a 1000 miles away, not an inch close and from all angles.

The best thing that they are going to come up with is superficial because that’s how deep they are able to go. There are no reference points to what is going to be the most effective solution to help them get sales, build a brand, code an application, etc.

The lead and committee are making a decision purely on a gut feeling without a true understanding of what’s going to work.

This is where you share the things you need to understand what the key metrics and goals for success are.

What are the trigger points for the customers to buy-in?

That the only way to know is to talk with you, your team, and potential customers.

Then it’s a matter of summing up and echoing back everything the lead said to you and leave them thinking about their process.

“So as much as you would like to work with them on this $X project, I can’t from this point of view. I can’t tell you with confidence it would work.”

Then sit in that silence.

In this short statement, you echo back what they say it’s worth it to them to solve this problem.

You are also planting the seed that if the other companies are not asking these things, then maybe they aren’t as good as they say they are.

Keep in mind, you are not in the business to write proposals. You are in the business to solve problems successfully for your clients and in turn make money and profits from that.


You rock! 🤘


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