If you sit and wait for RFPs to be issued, then your chances of being successful are very slim. That is why it is vital that you pre-position for an RFP. If you don’t engage with your client or prospective client ahead of an RFP being issued, then without a solid relationship or them having knowledge of what you do, you are very unlikely to be successful.
In fact, you must pre-position for an RFP if you want to be successful, if not, you should decline the invitation to respond. It isn’t always easy to turn down bidding for a project or matter you have the expertise to do, however, you are saving yourself a great deal of time and money in doing so if your chances of winning are slim, to none, though a lack of pre-positioning. You can even decline an RFP opportunity without annoying your prospective client if you do it correctly.
It amazes me that many firms don’t pre-position for an RFP properly. It’s why many firms currently have a very poor win rate. It is not uncommon to see some professional services firms running at well below a 50% win rate, in fact, many are in the 30-40% range, and some scarily are lower!
If you’re still not convinced, let’s look at the why you need to pre-position for an RFP a bit more.
Why you need to pre-position for an RFP
Because buyers don’t make decisions solely on the basis of your written responses. Everyone has a natural preference or bias towards brands they know, and are aware of, and more importantly to individuals they know and trust.
Put yourself in your buyer’s shoes for a second, would you be more likely to choose a supplier who has spent the last few months getting to know you, and understanding your key individual and wider business drivers for a project you will issue an RFP for, or one that you’ve never met but has sent in a response to your RFP? The answer is obvious, you’ll pick someone who has invested time and effort in you, and your business.
So hopefully now you’ll be convinced that you do need to pre-position for an RFP. The next question is, how do you do it effectively?
8 ways to pre-position for an RFP
Identify upcoming RFPs/Projects for the next 12+ months
The first stage is somewhat obvious. You need to know what you’re pre-positioning for. If you’re in an engineering consultancy, what major infrastructure or building projects are on the horizon? Similarly, if you are in an accountancy firm, when are major audits up for re-tendering etc? If you’re bidding to central and larger government organisations, when are their major panels up for renewal? In the private sector, you’ll need to understand your client or prospective client’s 6-month, 12-month and say 3-year visions, and plans for their business. This will help you understand what RFPs are likely to be on the horizon.
Don’t sit in your office, get to know the potential RFP issuers
Or indeed don’t sit at home (unless you’re still in lockdown of course!). You really do need to have early discussions with your contacts about any upcoming projects as early as possible. Find out things like the following:
- What is it they are hoping to achieve?
- What are the barriers preventing them from getting started with the project?
- What would be the ideal outcome once completed for them?
That’s just a start. Your job in this stage is to not just build rapport but to help them with their thinking about the project. This shouldn’t be limited to just the areas you can help them with, but a discussion on the wider project needs. If you can understand this, you can fully understand where your services fit in the wider scheme, and also what help they may need from others to get the project started.
If you want to pre-position for an RFP successfully it is absolutely vital that you do this.
Write content that aligns to the upcoming RFP
Yes, content marketing is a key part of how to pre-position for an RFP. Align your content to talk about the issues and to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise ahead of the RFP coming out. Share case studies of previous successes and lessons learned. These don’t have to be exclusively your own, you can talk about similar projects from overseas and share insights and key points in your writing. All of what you talk about should be helpful and thought-provoking in this particular area. This will help mark you out as thought leaders and even the “go-to firm” for this type of project or work.
Be prepared to ‘target’ sponsor your online content
Once published, it is likely that your content will be promoted via social media. You can use google ads to promote your content, and also LinkedIn advertising. While both are effective, LinkedIn can be very useful for short targeted campaigns as you can target individual organizations and job roles, to ensure that those you want to see your content are exposed to it. This can be an effective tactic to pre-position for an RFP.
Send useful studies to your contact
It is highly unlikely that the work/project that the RFP will be issued for is totally unique. Even if it is a new project, it is likely similar projects will have been carried out elsewhere in the world. Where possible send reports or studies of these. It is actually better if they are third-party studies rather than your own, although a mix is best. It shows that you care about their project being successful and have carried out research and shared your findings with them.
Speak/Attend the right conferences
It is always better to be on stage, demonstrating your expertise rather than just being an attendee. However, if you can’t secure a speaking slot, you will want to attend a conference if you know the RFP issuer will be attending and if it is a relevant topic to the RFP. Being there allows you to continue the conversation with your contact, and also shows that you are active in this particular sector/area of expertise. It helps build your credibility and is part of your strategy to pre-position for an RFP.
Offer a workshop or seminar.
A main part of how to pre-position for an RFP effectively is to help your client/potential client with their upcoming project. Therefore, if you can engage them and their team in a targeted workshop ahead of the RFP being issued, that is very powerful. It aligns you with them and demonstrates that you are keen to invest your time in helping them be successful.
During the workshop, you can offer to take notes. This means at the end of the session you can type these up and send them a project or next steps plan for them to follow. Send it on your letterhead, of course.
Share any new ideas or innovations you have ahead of the RFP
If you have any innovative ideas, do not keep them for when the RFP is issued; instead share them as early as possible with the client. It demonstrates proactiveness and also a desire to really work with your client and make them successful. If you leave it for your RFP response it will come as a surprise and not necessarily a good one.
Conclusion – Put effort into how you pre-position for an RFP
The 8 steps above give you some idea of what you need to do to maximise your chances of winning any RFP. It is better to invest the majority of your time in pre-positioning for the work, rather than in your formal bid response. Keep a track of the activities you do, and run regular pre-positioning meetings internally to hold each other to account.
If you start putting these steps in place, you’ll begin to increase your hit rate and you’ll end up doing a lot more of the work you enjoy. This is why it makes sense to pre-position for an RFP. In fact, you should pre-position for all the ones you want to win.