You’ve been requested by two vendors to submit a proposal bid on a couple of sales projects. It involves sales training. Your company has expertise in the sales training area. Your strength is cold calling. One of the proposal requests is an RFP. The other is a more informal proposal.
It’s critically important that you stick to the terms of the proposal. An RFP is very specific. It tells you by when the proposal has to be delivered, by what date and time. It also tells you the form in which it must be delivered. Can you e-mail it, fax it, mail it, or must it be hand delivered? There may be other restrictions such as length.
What it will also tell you is whether you have to submit it anonymously; i.e., you cannot identify yourself in your proposal bid in any way. The reason is that the client wants your proposal bid to go through the same independent, bias-free assessment as all other bids. Any identification of your firm will immediately nullify your efforts.
What’s great about an RFP is that it will tell you how your bid will be evaluated. In other words certain segments of the bid rank more highly than others. Your job is to make sure you are aware of those rankings to ensure you don’t spend excessive time on segments that have less impact on the eventual decision and more on those that do.
What if you’re dealing with an informal bid? Some informal bids will have as specific a requirement as an RFP. The bid has to be in by a certain date and time. It may have to be hand delivered, depending on the client’s instructions. You may have more flexibility in that deadline. I’ve been in situations where the client has been willing to say that the next morning will be fine, or if it’s a Friday deadline, delivery first thing on Monday morning will be OK. Don’t count on it, however. Whenever possible make the commitment to meet the stated deadline without having to ask for an extension. That says volumes about your integrity as a supplier.
If the terms in the informal request are “loose,” that is you’re not exactly sure what the client is after, what the priorities are, ask the client. It’s much smarter to determine the client’s key issues right from the start and avoid making assumptions. These unwritten terms can be just as important as those established under an RFP, with just as much impact on deciding the winning bid.
There’s one last element and that’s a legal factor. When you respond to an RFP it’s legally an offer. If the client accepts it, the offer is binding, which implies that you’d better make sure you get your proposal right.
When you stick to the terms required by the vendor, you have at least an equal opportunity with other bidders to win the business. If you have questions about the terms, especially with an informal vendor request, contact the vendor to get clarity before you develop your proposal bid.