In the rush to respond to an RFP on a razor-thin deadline, it’s easy to make a minor mistake or oversight that torpedoes your chance of winning the deal. Proposal by proposal, you may never know exactly what cost you the opportunity but tracking your running RFP response win rate acts as a proposal success barometer and early warning indicator.
When you monitor the percentage of your proposals that result in won deals vs. lost deals over time, it’s easy to prove (with indisputable data) when your proposals are trending toward success. On the other hand, if your proposals start trending toward more losses, you can quickly identify potential issues and start righting the ship as soon as possible.
There’s no substitute for honing your proposal strategy over months and years based on analytics and real-world win/loss results, but here are four things our experts recommend starting today to help boost your RFP response win rate.
1. Write persuasive RFP responses
If your sales team did its job, by the time an RFP reaches your team, you already have high-level background information about your prospective customer. That’s great, but to create proposals that win more consistently, you need to invest the time up-front to dig deeper into your prospect’s pain points and the factors driving them to look for a solution now.
Keep in mind that your prospect may not even know exactly what they’re looking for until they see it. Your prospect’s primary goal is finding the best solution to their problem. Your primary goal is crafting a story so compelling that it’s apparent your company—and only your company—can provide them with that solution.
Quick Tip: Be empathic. Put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, and consider:
- What are your prospect’s most strategically important goals and objectives?
- Who have they bought from before, and who are they working with currently?
- Which of your competitors did they likely also send this RFP to?
How can you uniquely address your prospect’s most pressing pain points?
Now that you understand your RFP’s context, it’s time to analyze the RFP questionnaire itself for additional insight. While this may sound obvious, with deadlines looming and your backlog of unanswered RFPs growing, it’s tempting to skip this close reading and jump right to writing a response.
If you make that mistake, you’re likely to end up writing a proposal based on what your company wants to sell rather than what your prospect wants to buy. That fundamental mismatch can doom your response from the start. So, no matter how tight the turn-around is, fight the urge to get writing fast.
Together, careful RFP analysis and thoughtful research will give you a clear picture of how to reach your prospective client best. A proposal is a sales document. Consequently, an RFP response is a lot like an in-person sales conversation: it should address your prospect’s questions, relieve their concerns, and highlight your company’s strengths and expertise—without making it all about you.
2. Customize every RFP response
Avoid cutting and pasting from old RFP responses or inserting generic proposal answers word-for-word. Prospects will notice when writing styles shift between answers, and our brains are trained to identify and skip boilerplate content. Writing a unique RFP response for every opportunity is a best practice, but that doesn’t mean always starting from scratch.
Start by running your RFP questionnaire through an RFP response automation software that automatically inserts the most relevant answers from your proposal content repository. With that head start, you can then go back and customize your RFP response draft to best connect with your prospect. This approach saves you from staring down a blank page and shooting yourself in the foot by sending out generic, non-compelling answers.
Nailing the writing style means striking a balance between being technically accurate and easy to understand. It’s critical not to slip into industry jargon or “sales-speak.” Instead of winging it, consciously write with your intended RFP response reader in mind.
Quick Tip: Explore your prospective customer’s website and download a few pieces of content to get a feel for the words, phrases, and style their company uses regularly. Mirroring their style can help make your RFP response feel familiar and stand out from the pack.
Everyone is busy, and your prospect is going to have several proposals to review. Whoever reads your RFP response for the first time will likely read only the executive summary and skim the rest. Ensure your RFP response doesn’t get knocked out in the first cut by making a lasting impression that pulls your prospect back for a closer read of the sections that grabbed their attention.
3. Don’t underestimate RFP response formatting
First impressions matter. You might think design, branding, and formatting are just window dressing, but remember: reading your proposal is part of your prospect’s job. It’s your job to help make that a pleasant experience, so they’re left with a favorable perception of your company.
If your proposal looks like a textbook (AKA a wall of plain text), your RFP response win rate will suffer. Organize your RFP response into chapters, sections, paragraphs, and bullets when appropriate. Use headings and subheadings to identify key sections and ideas, and map them back to an easy-to-follow table of contents at the start of the proposal.
Quick Tip: Consider how you’d act if you received two proposals that offer the same solution for the same price. If one proposal is professionally formatted and the other looks amateurish, you’ll probably gravitate toward the better-looking proposal, right? So will your prospects.
To get a leg up on your completion, consider an RFP response automation software that takes the frustration out of professional proposal formatting with customizable style templates. With style templates, you can stop manually fighting with fonts, colors, and layouts, and brand and re-brand entire proposals automatically in minutes.
When you take the time to focus on proposal style and formatting, you’re telling your prospect that their business is worth the extra effort. Whether consciously or otherwise, your prospects will remember and anticipate getting the same attention when they become customers. Every proposal reflects your brand and what you represent. Make sure you’re in control of the narrative.
4. Double-Check for RFP Response Errors
Crafting tailored RFP responses that present your company, products, and services in the best light takes substantial resources. The last thing you want to do is derail your efforts in the final hour by not setting aside time to double- (or even triple-) check for errors and omissions.
Proofreading everything carefully to catch spelling and grammar errors is a must, but when you’re close to a document, sometimes your brain starts to fill in the gaps and leads you to overlook simple mistakes.
Quick Tip: Read your RFP response out-loud or use a text-to-voice feature to catch awkward-sounding sections and places where you may have accidentally swapped similar-looking words (think: “manger” vs. “manager”).
If you’re using an RFP response automation software, it’s a great idea to run any brand new or substantially revised RFP answers through a final review workflow. By assigning the new and updated answers to their respective content owners, you can share the burden of a final review and ensure you only add high-quality, approved answers back into your proposal content library for future use.
Get Ready to Improve Your RFP Response Win Rate
If your team is overloaded with RFPs, it can seem counterintuitive to spend even more time fine-tuning each proposal, but issuing a high volume of inferior proposals will only damage your RFP response win rate. Of course, passing on well-fitting opportunities to reduce your workload is never a popular decision either. So, how can you escape this catch-22?
RFP response automation software is an ideal solution to power your team to quickly deliver high-quality responses with the same resources you have today. For more than twenty-five years, Upland Qvidian has been helping thousands of organizations do just that. With proposal automation, you can create a first draft RFP response in minutes, so you can focus on trickier questions and tailoring your answers to be more persuasive.
To learn more about how Qvidian can uniquely help your organization, contact one of our RFP and proposal experts.