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The Keys to a Winning RFP

By Michelle Collins |

You've just found a lucrative government contract and you know that your company can do a fantastic job. Now all you've got to do is convince these people. You don't need writing skills on par with Shakespeare to accomplish this, but there are some techniques you can use to win the advantage.

Read the document carefully

During your first time you may have been keeping a mental checklist as you read the bid, answering more yes's than no's to the qualifications. Now it's time to print the document and go through it word by word.

This exercise will help you determine that the contract is within your domain, and that you have the credentials to compete, explains Ray Power, a managing partner with FMP Consulting.
in Ottawa. You may find that your perfect opportunity may cost you more than you can afford.

Ask questions

If you're confused about something you read don't gloss over it or make assumptions. You don't want to find out later that you missed a key aspect of the RFP or that you went off in the wrong direction.

"If the RFP is not clear in its requirements or evaluation criteria, it is important to pose direct questions to the project authority and get clear answers before investing any time in a proposal," says Power.

Power also points out that neglecting to do this is another common mistake that people will make. You should also ask about whom currently holds the contract. You may find that the agency wants to renew their contract with the current supplier, but must still post the bid to meet certain regulations.

In fact, Power says this favouritism is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to answering RFP's. However, if you feel it is worth your while it shouldn't stop you from bidding. A strong and focused proposal could win this contract away from the current supplier.

Make sure that you can do the job

While you may think that you meet the qualifications outlined, Power says it's important to make sure you can actually do what's expected. Chances are other companies who specialize in these tasks are also submitting bids. Your time is better spent focusing on the areas where you excel.

"Be realistic in assessing your chances - it may be you have the perfect person for the job, but you don't have the corporate qualifications to win the bid," says Power.

Identify your competitive advantage

Upon a second reading you are even more convinced that you can do this job. Your next step is to think about your competitors and what they have to offer. Then you must consider what's unique about your company. Power says that one of the most common mistakes he runs across is people who haven't sized up their competitive chances.

Do you have an expert on staff who knows this topic inside out? Or perhaps your company has proprietary technology that automatically puts you ahead. Identify these things and make sure that you highlight them in your response.

Ready, set, write

Once you have done your homework and are satisfied that you know the past history of this contract, and feel you have a strong chance of winning, you are ready to write. While an advisor such as Power can help you identify the pros and cons of an RFP, you should do the writing yourself. First of all, it can be expensive to hire someone else to take on the writing duties. Secondly, you are likely the best person to identify your company's capabilities and highlight them to their best advantage. If you have concerns about grammar and clarity, perhaps you may want to find a freelance copy editor to look over your work a final time.

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