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Webinar: Building a Winning Bid: How to Respond to Requests for Proposals
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Webinar: Building a Winning Bid: How to Respond to Requests for Proposals

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In this presentation you will learn how to: …

In this presentation you will learn how to:

- Write a targeted proposal cover letter
- Optimize the all-important executive summary
- Create a client-centered solution statement
- Respond to RFP/RFQ questions
- Format a professional proposal
- Navigate electronic forms and spreadsheet submission

Published in Business , Economy & Finance
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  • In case you aren’t familiar with MBO Partners, at a high level we make it easy for independent consultants and their clients to work together. We do this by running a variety of back office functions for our consultants so they can focus on the work they love. We take care of taxes, invoicing, contracts and business insurances. We also work hard to provide value to independents by creating a wide range of educational content that is featured in our Independent’s Guide portion of our website, as well as in our webinar series!
  • Some quick housekeeping before we begin – here you can see the webinar controls – please click the button with a small screen icon to move into full screen mode and don’t hesitate to send questions across throughout the presentation by typing them into the box shown here. We will answer them all at the end of the presentation. I would, however, like to answer the most common question we get now: Yes, we will be emailing you a recording of this webinar. You should see it in your inbox early next week.
  • A new feature on our webinar series is live tweeting! Please note today’s hashtag and feel free to send across questions and comments through the presentation. We will be monitoring it and will also answer these questions at the end of the presentation.You can also follow our speaker, Jennifer at the Twitter handles you see here.

Transcript

  • 1. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Building a Winning Bid: How to Respond to Requests for Proposals Tom Sant Hyde Park Partners
  • 2. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Moderator Sara Conde Consultant Services Advisor, MBO Partners
  • 3. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. We Make it Easy for Independent Consultants & Their Clients to Work Together
  • 4. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Webinar Controls The full screen icon maximizes the presentation area. The chat box allows you to send a question to the presenter.
  • 5. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Live Tweeting Today’s Hashtag: #MBOWeb Submit your Questions/Comments
  • 6. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Your Presenter • Author of Persuasive Business Proposals, the world’s largest selling book on proposal writing (3rd edition, 2012) • “America’s foremost expert on proposal writing.” (American Management Association) • “One of world’s top ten sales trainers.” (Selling Power Magazine) • Over 25 years’ experience with Fortune 500 companies • Over $30 billion in winning proposals page 3
  • 7. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Agenda • Why are there RFPs? • Before you start • Getting the parts right: – Writing a targeted proposal cover letter – Optimizing the executive summary – Creating a client-centered solution statement – Responding to RFP/RFQ questions • Final thoughts: – Formatting – Dealing with electronic forms and spreadsheets
  • 8. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Why Are There RFPs?
  • 9. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Why Do Prospects Issue RFPs? Government and public sector • Began with early civil service reforms—driving out corruption and waste • Rapid growth with rise of Federal programs during the Depression • Continued expansion through WWII and Cold War Goals: • Fairness, transparency, objectivity • Compliance with regulatory requirements • Policy consistency • Social agenda—EEOP, MWBE, Hub zones, etc.
  • 10. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. What About the Private Sector? • Drivers • Influence of Federal and state government • Increasing complexity of acquisitions • Professionalism of the purchasing function • Goals: • Breadth of solutions • Competitiveness on pricing • Ability to compare offers • Free consulting? • Stalking horse on price?
  • 11. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Before You Start
  • 12. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Deal or No Deal? • Qualify the opportunity • Determine the level of effort • Analyze the RFP • Answer seven questions
  • 13. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Pre-Proposal Checklist Time for a reality check… • Qualified? • Decision making process understood? • Key buying influences identified? • RFP tailored to our favor? • Competitors known? • Coaches guiding us?
  • 14. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Real deal? Can we compete? Can we win? Do they have a compelling need? Do they have budget? Do we have a relationship? Do we match their key requirements? - Technically? - Management plan? - Resource capabilities? Do we have meaningful differentiators? Are we at the right level, speaking to the right people? Can we offer a compelling value proposition? Is there a strong bias in our favor? Can we influence the decision criteria? A three-phase process…. Effective Qualification
  • 15. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Analyzing an RFP Four steps: 1. Review the RFP 2. Identify the requirements 3. Analyze the business case by answering Seven Questions 4. Kick off the project
  • 16. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Review the RFP Document • Burst the RFP contents, separating it into: – Administrative – Legal – Format guidelines – Content requirements • Reorganize the RFP if necessary But answer the questions in the same order they appear in the RFP. p. 46
  • 17. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Highlight every item labeled a requirement (or which is expressed using the words “shall” or “must”) Create a checklist of requirements A. Follow the order of topics used in the RFP B. List each requirement separately C. Use the RFP language; don’t paraphrase D. Distribute the checklist to proposal team members Identify the Requirements p. 48 Requirement Assigned to: Handled? Specify the customizable components of the system interface. HR Yes Technical summary, p.72 Describe any concurrent or multi-threaded processing limitations. DS Pending
  • 18. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Seven Questions: Analyzing the Business Case 1. Client’s problem, issues? 2. Why is it a problem? 3. Desired outcomes?
  • 19. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. STRATEGIC Business / Financial Budgetary compliance Profit improvement Downsizing Mergers / acquisitions Market share Reduced risk Better project outcomes Four Areas of Goals
  • 20. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. STRATEGIC Business / Financial Budgetary compliance Profit improvement Downsizing Mergers / acquisitions Market share Reduced risk Better project outcomes Four Areas of Goals TACTICAL Technical / infrastructure Introducing best practices Adding flexibility Improving QC Achieving compliance with regulatory standards
  • 21. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. STRATEGIC Business / Financial Budgetary compliance Profit improvement Downsizing Mergers / acquisitions Market share Reduced risk Better project outcomes Four Areas of Goals TACTICAL Technical / infrastructure Introducing best practices Adding flexibility Improving QC Achieving compliance with regulatory standards SOCIAL / POLITICAL Internal -Improve morale -Reduce absenteeism -Decrease turnover External -Gain public support -Win approval -Enhance recognition
  • 22. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. STRATEGIC Business / Financial Budgetary compliance Profit improvement Downsizing Mergers / acquisitions Market share Reduced risk Better project outcomes Four Areas of Goals PERSONAL goals TACTICAL Technical / infrastructure Introducing best practices Adding flexibility Improving QC Achieving compliance with regulatory standards SOCIAL / POLITICAL Internal -Improve morale -Reduce absenteeism -Decrease turnover External -Gain public support -Win approval -Enhance recognition
  • 23. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. 1. Client’s problem, issues? 2. Why is it a problem? 3. Desired outcomes? 4. Most important? 5. Potential solutions? 6. Probable results? 7. Why are we the right choice? Seven Questions: Analyzing the Business Case
  • 24. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Getting the Parts Right Cover Letter Executive Summary Solution Recommendation RFP Q&A Section
  • 25. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. 1. The Business Case – Cover letter – Title page – Table of Contents – Executive Summary • Customer needs • Customer desired outcomes • High-level presentation of solution • Key evidence of competence and value added elements – ROI, payback analysis The 3-Part Structure of Proposals 2. Solutions and Substantiation – Solution in detail • Description of products/services • Value-added components – Scope of work • Project plan/master schedule • Project team, resumes, org chart • Subcontractors – Validation • References • Case studies • Uniqueness factors – RFP response • Compliance matrix • Question and Answer section 3. Attachments, Appendices Sample contracts Financials
  • 26. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. 1. The Business Case – Cover letter – Title page – Table of Contents – Executive Summary • Customer needs • Customer desired outcomes • High-level presentation of solution • Key evidence of competence and value added elements – ROI, payback analysis Which Part Matters the Most? 2. Solutions and Substantiation – Solution in detail • Description of products/services • Value-added components – Scope of work • Project plan/master schedule • Project team, resumes, org chart • Subcontractors – Validation • References • Case studies • Uniqueness factors – RFP response • Compliance matrix • Question and Answer section 3. Attachments, Appendices Sample contracts Financials
  • 27. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. 1. The Business Case – Cover letter – Title page – Table of Contents – Executive Summary • Customer needs • Customer desired outcomes • High-level presentation of solution • Key evidence of competence and value added elements – ROI, payback analysis The Business Case 2. Solutions and Substantiation – Solution in detail • Description of products/services • Value-added components – Scope of work • Project plan/master schedule • Project team, resumes, org chart • Subcontractors – Validation • References • Case studies • Uniqueness factors – RFP response • Compliance matrix • Question and Answer section 3. Attachments, Appendices Sample contracts Financials
  • 28. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The Order in Which to Write
  • 29. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Effective Cover Letters Make them persuasive and brief Highlight a couple of the key points from the proposal The customer’s business driver The primary goal The solution in extremely high level Two of your key competitive advantages Avoid: “ABC Company would like to thank you for allowing us to submit...”
  • 30. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Be Enthusiastic and Specific Create a strong, enthusiastic impression •We really want your business •We’re committed to doing it right Provide linkage to any meetings or the RFP Briefly thank people who were helpful Ask for the business • Avoid closing with “If you have any questions, please feel free to call.”
  • 31. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Three Questions 1. What is the most important part of a sales proposal? 2. How long do you have to make a good first impression? 3. What matters more to your success: style or structure?
  • 32. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The Executive Summary: The Most Important Part of Any Proposal Decision Makers Have Three Questions: 1. Are we getting what we need? 2. Is it worth doing? 3. Can the vendor really do it? p. 33
  • 33. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The Executive Summary: Keep It Brief and Relevant • Write simply and clearly – Keep it short—2 pages is plenty for most proposals – Simple words, short sentences, minimum jargon – Readability index ≤ 10 (Wall Street Journal) – No fluff
  • 34. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. No “fluff” Best of breed World class Leading edge State of the art Quality focused Uniquely qualified Innovative High performance Synergy User friendly Integrated Partnership Seamless Robust Here are a few examples…. Anything look familiar? Vague generalities. Undefined or unsubstantiated claims. Grandiose promises without substantiation.
  • 35. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The Executive Summary: Keep It Brief and Relevant • Write simply and clearly – Keep it short—2 pages is plenty for most proposals – Simple words, short sentences, minimum jargon – Readability index ≤ 10 (Wall Street Journal) – No fluff • Focus on the customer’s business situation – RFP requirements are NOT the customer’s needs – Ask: Why did they issue this RFP? What’s not working? – NOT your company history, technology, capabilities—all of that comes later • Use the right structure! – Persuasion, not information
  • 36. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. •Needs: The customer’s key business needs, problems, issues, pains, or opportunities: the drivers behind the deal. •Outcomes: The positive impact that will come from meeting those needs: the motivation to move forward. •Solution: A recommendation for a product or service that will solve the problem and deliver the outcomes •Evidence: Proof you can do the job on time and on budget: your differentiators. Use the Structure of Persuasion N O S E The NOSE Pattern
  • 37. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The Basic Executive Summary Outline 1. INTRODUCTION: 2 or 3 sentences to establish context and relevance 2. The client’s NEEDS or problems 3. Positive OUTCOMES or results the client seeks 4. Recommend a SOLUTION 5. Provide EVIDENCE—but limit it to just a couple of key differentiators with quick evidence 6. Strong CLOSING: ask for the business by returning to the Outcomes
  • 38. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. • First words? • Play the name game. • Products or solutions? • Whose jargon is it anyway? • Price or value? “Don’t waste my time with a bunch of boilerplate!” Check Your Executive Summary for Client Focus
  • 39. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Recommending the Solution Offer the right solution. Analyze the full range of potential solutions. Minimize the risk of saying Yes. Common mistakes: 1. Informing rather than persuading 2. Selling more than the customer wants 3. Not linking the solution to the problem 4. Not selling the whole solution 5. Not making it easy to say “Yes” page 46
  • 40. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. High-Level Solution Recommendation Recommend the solution in a single sentence— focus on function aspects and business fit. Explain the recommendation in another sentence— focus on execution. Differentiate your recommendation— focus on value. page 47
  • 41. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Present the Solution in the Context of Needs
  • 42. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Answering RFP Questions We all know… Writing effective RFP responses is important. Mistakes can be very costly.
  • 43. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. What are RFP Answers? • Often factual, short responses to a set of questions • Sometimes more lengthy descriptions of processes / products / capabilities • Sometimes case studies, references, past performance • Vital for proceeding to the next stage in an evaluation
  • 44. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. The kinds of writing skills you need:  Facts, information  Evaluations, and comparisons  Process descriptions  Product descriptions  Team resumes or CVs  Case studies  References
  • 45. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved.  Don’t change the order of the RFP questions Tips to Score Maximum Points
  • 46. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Number One Complaint from Proposal Evaluators: “The vendor did not follow the instructions in the RFP.”
  • 47. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved.  Don’t change the order of the RFP questions  Repeat each question followed by your answer in a different format Tips to Score Maximum Points
  • 48. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Make the Contrast Obvious 2.2 How many of the bank’s clients are using the systems referred to above? GlobalBankNet is currently being used by over 400 customers worldwide. GlobalBank’s current electronic banking platform, Octagon, has in excess of 50,000 users worldwide. These will be migrated to GlobalBankNet in due course. 2.3 Given the Company’s requirements, what are the possible system or platform shortfalls and what solutions do you suggest to overcome those problems? We do not anticipate any system or platform shortfalls at this stage. GlobalBankNet was launched at the end of 2007 and is subject to continual development in response to customer demand and to ensure conformity to banking regulations.
  • 49. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Tips to Score Maximum Points  Don’t change the order of the RFP questions  Repeat each question followed by your answer in a different format  Include a compliance matrix at the start of the response section
  • 50. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Make the Evaluator’s Job Easier
  • 51. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Tips to Score Maximum Points  Don’t change the order of the RFP questions  Repeat each question followed by your answer in a different format  Include a compliance matrix at the outset of the response section  Don’t make the evaluator search for answers
  • 52. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Don’t Make Them Hunt for the Answer Please describe available collection systems in each country. These have been covered in our country-specific response elsewhere in this proposal.
  • 53. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Formatting
  • 54. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Make It Easy to Read: Highlight the Key Points Remember: Your Reader Is Probably Skimming.
  • 55. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Document Architecture Creates Impact •Titles and headings •Subheadings •Highlighting – Bullet points – Boldface – White space •Graphics •Short paragraphs
  • 56. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Electronic Submissions
  • 57. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Dealing with Electronic Submissions • Review your Go/ No Go analysis. – Is the decision being made purely on price? – Is the buying process reductive? • If you still want to go forward: – Simplify the solution to make it as cheap as possible – Seek help from an internal coach or champion – Attach a NOSE-structured email
  • 58. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Final Tips for Winning RFP Responses 1. Focus on the client’s business problems and payoffs 2. Use persuasive structure 3. Differentiate your offer and yourself 4. Offer a compelling value proposition 5. Highlight the key points are buried 6. Make it easy to read—minimal jargon, concise, not too technical 7. Eliminate the credibility killers--misspellings, grammar errors, wrong client name, inconsistent formats, etc.
  • 59. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved.
  • 60. ©2013 Tom Sant. All rights reserved. Additional Information on MBO Partners • EMAIL us - info@mbopartners.com • VISIT our website - www.mbopartners.com • FOLLOW us on Twitter - @mbopartners • SIGN UP for our monthly newsletter - newsletter@mbopartners.com 60