The Most Important – and Overlooked – Element of an RFP

October 13, 2015 by Jennifer Woods
Is it the statement of work? The evaluation criteria? The pricing model? Those are all important, but there is something that is even more critical if you want to win. The problem is that it’s not actually in the RFP. But, it’s a huge factor and it’s called the “white space.”

Anyone can submit a proposal that responds to the scope of work requirements. Sure, it’s important to have it well organized and to clearly articulate the company’s product or service. But when you want to write a great proposal – one that sets you apart from your competitors – you need to know about more than just the RFP itself.

For one, it’s imperative you know why the government agency wrote the requirements exactly how it did. It’s why the agency needs what it says it needs. It could be legislative pressure, statutory compliance, productivity loss, goal attainment, a desire to change, cost control or any number of reasons. But each RFP requirement is an intentional response to something the agency is facing.

So when putting together a winning strategy, start early. Consider why the agency has issued the RFP and what the agency hopes to accomplish. Typically, you need to have met with the agency officials and spoken about their priorities in advance in order to know these things. You will also need to understand the budget and political environments. Some firms spend years keeping in touch with agencies and tracking their priorities and projects in the hopes of carefully influencing the scope of work and understanding motivations. Here, the goal is to become the agency’s trusted advisor.

If you have done this, it won’t be enough to merely regurgitate the RFP’s requirements when you respond to it. A winning company tells the agency why its product or service will help achieve their larger motivations. So, if an RFP asks for a solution that provides inmate tracking, nabbing the contract may not happen just because you have the functionality. Rather, it may be that you have the functionality which also integrates with an alert system in the event of an inmate not being in the correct location (because you know the prison just suffered an inmate riot). You’ve gone beyond the basics and are now putting it into context to satisfy larger needs. Or, perhaps you are responding to a RFP that requires training on a new software system. Yes, you provide training, but you can specifically address how you use a train-the-trainer approach to achieve winning outcomes (because the agency CIO told you its important that her team take over training to reduce future costs).  It’s those extra layers that can make all the difference.

The company that understands what an agency really wants will have the best chance of winning. It’s about delivering meaningful results, not just meeting requirements. Fulfilling the motivation behind why the agency is going to make a purchase will carry more weight than meeting each technical specification or coming in at the lowest cost. It’s up to you to dig deep into the nuances, so you can deliver what the agency really wants.


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