Increasing leads and growing your business is of paramount importance if you want to be successful, yet many find tenders and requests for proposals - often abbreviated to RFPs - a daunting prospect.
These documents are solid leads published by businesses legally obliged to advertise opportunities for companies to pitch for, but a lot of businesses go weak at the knees when they start thinking about getting involved.
One of the many reasons for this is that they simply don’t have the time to go through what can be a lengthy process which, unfortunately, often leads to disappointment when the seller awards the work to someone else. For smaller businesses who do all of the work and lead generation themselves this can be very disheartening and it often leads to them focussing on the work at hand rather than the work potentially coming through the door, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
What is an RFP?
Before we get too far into the detail let’s have a quick look at what exactly an RFP, or tender is.
Put simply, an RFP or request for proposal, is an official document that announces the availability of a new contract for a piece of work or project. All public tenders must legally be put out into the public domain for all to view and potentially bid on to avoid businesses using preferred vendors for all projects and opening up an even playing field in the sector, while private tenders do not have to be publicized and instead can be sent to specific vendors.
How does the bidding process work?
Depending on how quickly the company advertising the project wants it to start, the bidding process can take either a few weeks or a few months. If they want to get started as soon as possible with a time-sensitive campaign then they might cut a few sections out of the typical bidding process while a less time-sensitive project might be more stringent and that can mean it takes much longer and there are more rounds of bidding and pitching.
In a typical situation the RFP will come with a deadline for bid submissions, but they will allow a period of time in the early stages for interested parties to ask any questions and build up the relationship prior to making a formal bid or proposal so that all involved can get a feel for who they might be working with and what they’ll be working on. After all, if the two parties don’t gel or if the value of the contract is less than you would normally do the work for, it’s probably not the right opportunity to pursue.
Once you have your questions answered and a deadline for bid submissions it’s important that you read the full details outlined in the RFP so that you complete it and provide everything the seller is asking for - otherwise it’s time wasted as you’re never going to be awarded the contract. Ensure that you do your research and then allow yourself enough time to complete the bid document and send it back for review before the deadline passes.
Busting the myths around RFPs and tenders
There are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding tenders and RFPs and this can cause a lot of companies to give them a very wide berth indeed, even avoiding them completely in favour of leads that come from exhibitions, events, direct enquiries and even word-of-mouth referrals.
What we’re going to do today is explain why RFPs aren’t actually anything for you to fear, and to bust some of the myths buzzing around new business departments around the world to make you feel more comfortable approaching tenders and going for your next big client win.
- The process is too long.
We’ve already spoken about how long the bidding process can last, but it should never deter you from giving each new business opportunity everything you’ve got. Even if you think you’re not going to be able to compete with larger businesses for the work it is still an excellent opportunity for you to establish a relationship, get your foot in the door and gain vital experience completing RFPs and bidding that might benefit you in the long run.
Sure, with paid work already on your plate it can be difficult to put that on the back burner while you focus your attentions on a pitch, but if it’s a pitch that does lead to some work - even if it’s not the entire project you were pitching for - you may still benefit from any additional work that comes your way by making an impression.
- Not enough time to complete the process.
Another common myth is that when the RFP takes up so much time, there isn’t enough time in the day to focus on the work that you already have, and are already paid to do by clients. Customer satisfaction and retention is every bit as important as growth, but it certainly is a misconception that there simply isn’t the time to focus on growth and retention.
If you’re to take your business to the next level you need to be armed with a strategy that enables you to focus on growth and retention in equal measure, and that means assigning time in your diary to new business and not solely the work at hand - this way there are no surprises or office all-nighters complete with pizza trying to hit those important deadlines.
When you factor growth and retention into your marketing strategy it becomes much more clear, and far simpler, for you to assign people to each role rather than getting all hands on deck or anyone with time to work on a project. This way, you can assign people with specialisms and relevant skills and experience to give both the RFP and the contracted work their full attention.
- Tools and platforms don’t give the vital details.
Finally, and this is one that we are pretty well placed to debunk, is the myth that the current lead generation tools and platforms don’t give people what they need. Yes, the headlines are great in the sense that there might be a £50,000 project that’s right up their street or a $75,000 campaign that they like the sound of, but sales intelligence platforms like Meet Hugo give out far more detail than just the bright lights of the project value.
In the past some lead generation tools and platforms did only serve up the highlights, but things have come a long way in a short period of time. Today, Meet Hugo is able to provide everything from contact details so you can bypass the gatekeepers and get straight to the relevant person in the business to introduce yourself and ask questions, along with information about the location of the seller, specific requirements relating to the project and the deadline for submissions so you can plan your response and bid in plenty of time.