The title may seem like this article has been written with the intention of us feathering our own nest…However, the main point is more around best practice when it comes to writing a compelling and winning RFP response. You’ll need an external bid review, particularly for those bids that are considered a ‘must-win.’
Increasingly in the professional services landscape, many RFPs are being issued with a tight turnaround. A two or three-week timeline from the RFP being issued to the submission deadline is far from uncommon.
And while firms may have internal BD or bid resources to assist, or even access to online tools such as responsive, the timelines are tight. It also means that prior to the submission, a full and proper review of the response is often either glossed over or neglected.
So, what does an ideal response programme look like?
In essence, we’ve covered this before with our 12 steps to writing a winning bid. But to put it simply, you have to form a response team, analyse the RFP, build a project plan for the delivery of the response, and then review that response before submission.
It is this last stage that needs to be carried out separately from the internal response team.
Who can carry out the external bid review?
In short, anyone who has not worked on the bid response, and has the ability to analyse the response against the RFP issued. They will need to have the ability to analyse and must also have the requisite mana from the bid team, so that their feedback is respected and actioned. Examples include:
- A Partner/Director: If the bid is worth a significant amount to your accountancy, engineering, legal, or architectural practice, then having a senior person who understands your offering but hasn’t seen your response means they can be hyper analytical and look for gaps or flaws that need to be picked up before submission.
- The Management Team (i.e., BD Director/CEO etc.): This can be an excellent place to get an independent review, which looks at your key messages and how the commercial aspects of your bid response are landing. In the case of a BD Director, it is likely they have seen a number of bid responses over the years so can add real value in this area.
- An External Consultant: As above, external consultants would have seen many similar responses, so will be well-placed to give feedback in line with best practice. They will also be free of internal politics, which means they are free and able to give more critical feedback than internal people. As you’re paying them, they are also easier to book in. Others within your organisation may let you down due to other client or internal demands.
What should the external bid review cover?
Let’s first start with what it shouldn’t focus on:
- Formatting issues
Gasp! Shock horror! I know, I’m asking people at this stage not to look for basic mistakes and errors. Clearly, if seen, point them out but don’t focus on them. After the external review and after feedback has been incorporated, another independent read should be done, to look specifically for typos and grammatical errors etc.
External bid reviews should cover:
- Analysis of response to RFP scoring criteria
- Ensuring that the key bid messages come through
- That the questions being asked have been answered thoroughly
- That the bid is compliant with the RFP
In the mind of the evaluation panel
A great bid should answer the questions asked in the RFP and tell a compelling and convincing story as to why the evaluators should pick your firm. The answers must explicitly answer the questions.
Even if the word or page limit is short, do not assume the evaluation panel will read into your answers. They most likely wont, or they will favour another respondent who has been clearer.
When I imagine how people review a raft of bid responses they’ve received to an RFP issued, I often think of my late father. My Dad was a professor, and as I child I recall watching him mark students’ theses or PHD submissions late at night. Sometimes he had a glass of red wine in hand, exasperated that people had filled the page with knowledge, but hadn’t answered the question.
I’m not sure if he liked me watching as a valuable life lesson, or if he was just immersed in his work. Either way, I thank him for the valuable life lesson he taught me.
In conclusion, an external bid review is priceless
If you really want to win that all-important next bid response, make sure your plan has time for an external bid review. Identify who the reviewer is, book them and their time in early, and send them the RFP ahead of the response they’ll need to review. Then, as with all feedback, do not ignore or reject it. Instead, take it onboard as the final piece of the puzzle in writing a winning bid response.