Preparing for RFPs – Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late” – William Shakespeare
Who among us didn’t pull an all-nighter to write a college term paper? While most of us have improved our time management skills considerably since those days, juggling pressing business demands with the extensive work required to prepare for an upcoming RFP creates a familiar conflict shared by our clients. So often we hear business leaders state that there is plenty of time to prepare for an upcoming procurement – even when the RFP is due out in a matter of weeks.
True, there are many reasons for not starting early, from tackling more immediate deadlines to limited resources to prepping for an upcoming board meeting, or, our favorite, the RFP isn’t out yet.
If the RFP is due out in a few weeks’ time, then you’re already late. Perhaps not too late, but late none-the-less. And attending to RFP planning once it has been released is akin to cramming the night before a final exam – it won’t help you get a passing grade!
You can’t plan after an RFP is released – you can only execute. Without advance planning, your odds of submitting a well-conceived, compliant proposal go down significantly once the RFP hits the street. And you can forget about making a compelling case for Government selection. At this point you’re gambling that no-one else bids or that everyone else submits a poor proposal.
What to do to improve those odds?
Don’t Wait. Plan. Now.
We are strong advocates of planning early for an upcoming procurement. With every RFP, early preparation can make the difference between winning and losing.
Just as a college football coach starts conditioning players months before they even step on a field, preparations should begin well before you see the RFP. We recommend using formal, written Capture Plans and developing Proposal Management Plans to guide these activities. Flowing from these will be other critical tools such as Written Checklists and Schedules to track actions and Probability of Win Assessments to evaluate bid opportunities. Your market and internal processes will influence which tools best serve your business; more important is that you develop a disciplined RFP preparation approach and follow it.
Proposing on major contract opportunities jump starts many activities, including vetting and selecting team members, generating a solution concept, or lining up vendors. Less obvious, but equally beneficial work, includes researching prior RFPs (for follow-on competitions), developing a mock RFP and a draft proposal, and of course, Positioning work. At times, unforeseen additional tasks pop up as well, such as seeking potential employees for key positions, arranging financing from your bank, cleaning up past performance citations and even updating SAM.gov registration information.
The bottom line is – don’t wait to plan for an upcoming RFP. If a contract opportunity is important enough for your business to prepare and submit a proposal, then it’s important enough to start planning well in advance.