Are RFPs doing you wrong?

Responding to government RFPs can feel like a frustrating guessing game. You submit proposal after proposal, but still struggle to move the needle on your win rate.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. With the right approach, you can dramatically boost your RFP win rate and revenue.

Steve Machesney, Director of Marketing, recently spoke with Carl Dickson, a veteran consultant who has spent over 20 years mastering the art of writing winning state, local, and education (SLED) proposals. Carl shared his best insights on how to stop wasting time on RFPs and start winning more contracts.

In this post, we’ll pass along the key takeaways from Steve’s conversation with Carl. Please note that Power Almanac, mentioned in this piece, will soon become MarketEdge Verified Contacts.

Focus on Win Rate, Not Volume

One of Carl’s first pieces of advice may surprise you. He doesn’t recommend trying to respond to more RFPs. Instead, the key is improving your win rate. Just a 10% increase can result in 50% more revenue.

“If you’ve got a bad win rate, you’re never going to be able to improve things much by going after more bad leads,” Carl explains. “You can’t make it up in volume.”

Before you can improve your win rate, you need to know your starting point. Shockingly, Carl has found that many companies don’t even track this crucial metric.

Take the time to calculate your current win rate so you can measure progress. Then make a plan to boost that percentage – even modest gains can significantly impact revenue.

Carl talks about how your fate is determined by your RFP win rate and how to get better.

Write From Your Customer’s Perspective

One common RFP mistake is focusing all your energy on touting your qualifications, services, and experience. But your customer doesn’t care about you – they care about their own needs being met.

That’s why Carl stresses the importance of writing from your customer’s perspective. Talk about how you will fulfill their requirements, not just why you’re so great.

Show that you understand their pain points and goals. Outline how your solution will impact their specific environment and constraints. This customer-centric approach is far more compelling.

Carl explains how to sell in your writing and how it’s different than selling in person.

Follow RFP Instructions to a “T”

You might be tempted to ignore or “outsmart” certain RFP requirements that don’t fit your approach. Big mistake, according to Carl.

No matter how silly or misguided a requirement seems, follow the RFP instructions to the letter. Otherwise you risk giving evaluators an easy excuse to disqualify your bid.

Remember, you can’t predict if or when they’ll enforce every provision. Don’t take that gamble.

Use Proof Statements, Not Fluff

When writing proposals, stay away from promotional fluff about your experience, capabilities, and commitment. This vague filler does nothing to influence evaluators.

Instead, use clear proof statements. Back up your claims with specifics on how you’ll fulfill the customer’s needs, who exactly will do the work, and why your approach is the ideal fit.

This level of tangible detail builds trust and confidence. As Carl puts it, “compelling in writing isn’t just about confidence – it’s about the proof statement.”

Carl explains how to influence your buyer when writing RFP responses.

Master the Art of Introductions

According to Carl, intro paragraphs are a microcosm of effective proposal writing as a whole. In your intro, resist the urge to open with formalities or a verbatim RFP repeat.

Hook the reader by highlighting what they’ll get, who will deliver it, and why you’re perfectly credible for the job. This immediately provides value and sets the tone.

Approach every section the same way. Lead with how you’ll fulfill the requirement, include specifics on your plan of action, and explain why your solution is ideal.

When you follow this format in intros and beyond, your entire proposal becomes more compelling and cohesive.

Remember, the goal isn’t a quick boilerplate response – it’s an engaging story about how you’ll satisfy the customer’s needs. Follow Carl’s guidance on introductions to tell that story skillfully from start to finish.

The Takeaway

Responding thoughtfully to RFPs takes effort – but it’s well worth it. By shifting your focus from volume to win rate, writing from the customer’s view, and clearly proving your credibility, you’ll see dramatic growth.