Every government agency is familiar with a Response for Proposal (RFP). This often-lengthy document outlines the specific needs and requirements for a government-sponsored project. The public has an opportunity to bid for the job, offering proof of their qualifications and expertise to encourage the agency to select them above the rest.
Since 2002, Selectron has responded to (and been awarded) many RFPs from smaller, focused projects to enterprise-level projects that incorporate multiple products and solutions. Selectron COO Dan Porter has been involved in every aspect of preparing a response: as a writer, reviewer, or consultant for the proposal. Additionally, Selectron has also released RFPs of our own, so Dan is experienced with both sides of the RFP process. With decades of experience under his belt, Dan offers his insight into how government agencies can draft RFPs to ensure they’re getting the best candidates for a project.
Focus on Clarity and Brevity
“Propose clear questions that make it evident what answer you’re expecting. If it’s a yes/no question, make that clear. Confirm that in your question if you want a more open-ended response.” Dan has seen that many RFPs ask questions that could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Keeping the questions focused and direct will help ensure you’re getting the answers you need to make your decision.
Give the Responder a Chance to Shine
“Concisely identify the problems and then ask how the company specifically would solve them.” Provide the companies an opportunity to speak from their expertise and be open to alternative solutions. There may be an option you haven’t considered that could more simply or affordably solve your problem.
Clarify your “Must-Haves”
“Identify the difference between your requirements and your wish list.” Getting all the details of a project down into the RFP can be challenging. This is especially true if there are multiple components or conflicting priorities amongst the people preparing it. Be sure to have a solid outline of the bare minimum requirements of the project and then clarify what additional features or functionality your agency would also like to see.
Get the Backstory
Getting first-hand references will provide you with a fuller understanding of the replier’s experience. Be sure to inquire if the company understood the needed requirements and how well they were able to pivot if any of the scope of the project changed. “Figure out what is important to your success and then ask questions that can help you identify if that company can get you there.”
And don’t forget to ask . . .
An RFP really gets into the details, but often, agencies leave out the questions that give them crucial insight into the company and services. Here are some questions that Dan recommends adding to any RFP to help illuminate this aspect:
Dan’s last piece of advice is to think ahead. “No one wants to slog through 130-page responses. Keep your RFP focused on the key info you need. It will make the responses you receive shorter, making it easier for you to read through them.”