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Before You Respond to that RFP…

In recent months, we at Wicker Park Group have heard from some firms about the challenges posed by the significant number of RFPs being sent out from current and potential clients. While that can be a good problem to have, it can also be overwhelming.

Follow these six tips before your respond, as you put together your response and after you’ve heard back from the client to make the effort worthwhile and successful (regardless of outcome):

  1. Determine the value of responding. Before automatically putting a response together, determine whether the RFP makes sense for your firm or your practice. Look at the likely profit margin of the potential work. Spend your time and resources wisely and don’t respond if you don’t see the value. Ideally, the firm will have a screening checklist of questions to ask that includes these questions and others specifically related to the goals and strategies of the firm.
  2. Have a clear process, timeline and clarity of responsibilities before you begin. RFP responses are often rushed and overloaded with material if there is not clear ownership of content and clarification of success from the start.
  3. Talk to the client. Before crafting your response, follow up with the client and ask questions about the goals of the RFP, their background in the area of work, the origin or purpose of the RFP, any expectations not laid out in the RFP or any inside information they can offer. You can generally get a sense if your firm has a shot at the work, too.
  4. Be honest with your capabilities. Far too many firms bid on every aspect of an RFP when the reality is they may only be best at a few key areas. Clients value when you are honest with your capabilities and strengths, and you are much more likely to get the work if you align their needs with where the firm has deep expertise, people and experience.
  5. Enlist additional help. While business development is likely already involved, think about other groups or individuals at the firm who can help. Does a partner in another practice group already have relationships with contacts at the client or have industry insights that might be valuable? Have laterals worked with the client in prior roles? Who at the firm (pricing, project management, client experience professionals) can help provide possible value adds for the client?
  6. Get feedback afterwards. Whether you win the work or not, get feedback from the client about what was helpful in the RFP, why they selected the specific firms and any suggestions that will help the firm craft better future RFPs.
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