Many will agree that winning contracts is not easy, for most companies submitting a successful proposal often follows trial, error and numerous failures. In our experience, failures often arise from the same root causes. Often companies adopt a “this is us, buy our services” approach to proposals while others respond to every RFP they can; scattering information about themselves in the hope that someone somewhere will notice them. These approaches are fundamentally flawed.
An RFP process simply sets out to establish whether a potential partner is fit for purpose. Luck isn’t part of that equation and companies that think of "one size fits all" requirements are unlikely to be successful. As dramatic as it sounds, failure to win can often be traced back to a single error made at the beginning of the process, all the way back in the pre-issue stage when the strategy is being defined – not preparing an intelligence report.
A good intelligence report is an in-depth research and analysis of the client, contract and competition. Its sole purpose is to unravel the client’s underlining drivers, their ‘wants’, and then use this information to shape the offer in the proposal. Essentially, you must find out what they want and need and then offer it to them. Simple right?
The difference between "what" and "so what" in Bid Research
Research describes what is occurring as it happens, while intelligence delivers insight and interpretation that and allows you to anticipate and act strategically. Knowing why something is happening and understanding its impact is what matters.
The importance of RFP Context
RFPs come to life in the context of an intricate ecosystem of relationships between people and organizations which you need to understand before you produce a compelling proposal. You should always consider the following:
How, where, when and why the project came into life
Who and what does a project depend on financially?
What rules does it have to abide by and who sets them?
What or who depends on the project at a local or national level?
Who's the Bid boss?
While your proposal must reflect the needs of the client you should also ensure you focus on the ultimate decision maker and understand their specific goals, intentions or interests so you can tailor your message to match what they want to hear.
What does your bid client think of you?
Take a long, hard look at the reasons why a client might discount your proposal. The best defense is a good offense and knowing your perceived faults allows you to control the debate around them.
How do you beat your bid competitors?
Combine a simple strengths and weaknesses analysis of your competitors with a review of their track record and their value proposition and you will have a good base for figuring out their likely strategy and how you can beat it.
What is the bid proposal really about? (Hint: It's not about you)
Many proposal writers fall into the trap of talking about themselves rather than addressing what makes the client sleepless at night. There is an infinite number of possibilities but all have one thing in common; they’re not about you.
What is the bid selling?
This is the heart of the intelligence report and the point from which you develop a firm bid strategy. At this stage, you should take a step back, review the information you have gathered and weave your intelligence into a cohesive story about why you’re the right company for the job, what it is about you that solves the client’s problem and how you are going to help them achieve their individual goals.
Suspecting you will agree that the concept of an intelligence report is easy to grasp. However, in practice unless you have experience of the process it can be difficult to deliver, so do not underestimate the effort and time it will take to get right. If at any point in the process you get stuck, we’re here to help and will happily throw some ideas at you to get you moving again.