Top Tip for Writing Successful RFP Responses: Know Your Audience

request-for-a-proposal rfpThose of you in business who respond to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have a critical role in sustaining and growing your company.

I believe, and teach, that the key to writing successful proposal responses is to overlay the human element onto whatever proposal process you have adopted. In other words, get inside the head of your potential customer’s proposal evaluators and make sure your response contains language that addresses their needs and uses the words the evaluators are looking for and scoring.

Proposal evaluators are looking for keywords that are spelled out in the RFP, so proposal writers need to have those key elements in their minds and incorporate them in the response.

Over time, I have observed something that is the essences of why many proposal submissions don’t win. The proposal manager and team are so enamored by and excited about their company’s offerings that they and their technical contributors end up defining and pushing their solutions, rather than focusing on how to adapt their offering to the potential customer’s unique challenges. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t love and be excited about your offering. I’m suggesting that you go a step further and ensure that you stay in the mindset of thinking about what your potential customer needs.

This may sound intuitive at first, but when writing proposal responses, avoid falling into the trap of writing “tutorials” about the RFP subject matter. Instead, image the proposal evaluators reading your material. They are looking to see if your company understands their needs and that your response addresses how you’re going to meet them.

By knowing your audience and writing your proposal response for the people who are going to read it, you have a much higher chance of success. Otherwise, no matter how brilliant your response is, it won’t win.

What’s been your experience with successful or not-so-successful proposal submissions and what advice can you share?