Do’s and don’ts of RFP responses

Writing a response to an RFP (request for proposal) can be pretty stressful. Short deadlines, the pressure to win, and managing inputs from various directions can detract from the main point – to produce a clear document that explains exactly why you should be awarded the work.

Under such strain, it’s tempting to rely on a copy-paste model. Yet when it comes to a potential client reviewing your document, it’ll soon be obvious that you did a rush job. That’s not to say canned answers and templates aren’t useful – in most cases they’re a perfect starting point. But only via careful application and elaboration can you truly ensure your business stands out.

Here are some important do’s and don’ts for producing a high-quality response.

Do:

  • Write a killer executive summary. We can all agree this is the most important part of your response. Avoid copying and pasting from previous pitches wherever possible. It’s easy to forget to take out something that doesn’t apply to the client – and this sloppiness could cost you everything.
  • Be concise. While RFP responses do require answers to multiple questions (which by default can make your document structurally long), this doesn’t mean you need to write an essay in each case. Check out this blog for tips on conciseness.
  • Think about the client. It’s a bit of a cliché, but put yourself in their shoes. And ask yourself, do they really need to hear about your history and your experience? If this explicitly demonstrates how you can help them, then great. But be sure to explain exactly how such experience translates to benefits for them.
  • Follow a style guide. A lack of consistency in your document will be seen as confusing at best, and unprofessional at worst.
  • Get at least one fresh pair of eyes on the final document. Remembering to build in time for this upfront – and communicating the deadline for inputs to everyone involved – will help ensure your document is polished and error-free.

 

Don’t:

  • Neglect writing time. A common pitfall in crafting RFP responses is spending too much time designing the solution or planning your response and leaving insufficient time to work out how to communicate it clearly.
  • Forget to answer the question. This is perhaps the most common pitfall, especially when using template answers, or those from previous responses. This is where a thorough, mindful edit has huge value. Ideally this should be done as a developmental edit, separate from the final copy edit and/or proofread. Learn about the different kinds of edits here.
  • Talk too much about yourself. Yes, you need to explain what you offer. But don’t forget to explain how this can apply to and – more importantly – benefit them.
  • Forget to smooth out different ‘voices’. Have someone in your organisation take the lead on putting together and reviewing the final piece. This will help ensure you don’t look disjointed and unprofessional.
  • Crowd your pages. The use of white space is increasingly becoming the norm for PowerPoint pitches in financial services – but it’s ok to use it and even some graphical elements in word-based RFP responses too.
  • Confuse features for benefits. It’s good to share both – but they are easily and too often confused. Question yourself when describing a benefit to a client – how would you specifically improve their business with this solution? Don’t just say what you will do.

 

Financial Content Lab is here to help. Do reach out if you need content support for your next RFP response.

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Sarah Datta

Sarah Datta

Founder and director of Financial Content Lab, I’m passionate about the Lab’s simple purpose: to help organisations produce quality content for their unique audiences.

Get to know me
Sarah Datta

Sarah Datta

Founder and director of Financial Content Lab, I’m passionate about the Lab’s simple purpose: to help organisations produce quality content for their unique audiences.

Get to know me

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