Too often, when building service contractors (BSCs) submit a proposal, nothing differentiates it from its competitors.
Even the company descriptions seem interchangeable. When all bids appear the same, price will prove the deciding factor.
Good proposals take time. If you are a BSC wanting to win more business, you need to produce detailed, client-specific proposals. You need to start the process before the bid is released.
You need to invest research time to uncover important components that typically are not included in a proposal but will make yours stand out.
If you are unwilling to put the time into submitting the proposal – or request for proposal (RFP), as it is most often referred to – don’t bother bidding. Your time can be much better spent.
That being said, let’s examine what constitutes a good RFP submission. But first, let’s take a brief look at what to consider when deciding whether to respond to an RFP at all.
When to pass on submitting
Don’t waste valuable time on RFPs that don’t make sense for you. This includes RFPs that:
- Are not a fit with your niche, strategies, and values, or where you lack the necessary experience and expertise
- You have a low likelihood of winning, or where the profit isn’t worthwhile. Only invest your time when there is a good chance to win profitable business
- Overload your capabilities and divert necessary time and resources away from your current, most profitable customers
- Are unclear, have unrealistic requirements, or provide insufficient time for you to prepare the bid
- Provide unfavourable terms and conditions
- You do not have any relationship with the company or key decision-makers
This last one surprises some BSCs. But think about it, how likely are you to sign a contract and spend considerable money with a stranger?
Clients are no different. If you plan on bidding on an RFP, you need to do some preliminary work. This includes familiarising yourself with the facility and establishing relationships with the key decision-maker(s).
If an in-person meeting is not possible, try connecting with key staff and commenting on their LinkedIn or using other social media marketing tactics. This process should begin months or years before the RFP is released.
Ready, set, research
Now that we have determined when not to bother submitting to an RFP, let’s look at the components necessary to win the RFPs that are a good fit for your company.
To submit a successful response to an RFP, as we indicated above, the first step is to do some research:
- Who are the key decision-makers, the influencers, and what are their root desires and wants?
- Which company cleans the facility now? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How is it performing currently? Are there any deficiencies in its performance?
- Which competitors are likely to submit bids? How do they differentiate themselves?
Creating a successful RFP submission
Once your research is complete, you must communicate clearly and compellingly how your team can best address the needs and wants of the decision-makers and successfully resolve any issues the client is currently experiencing.
Your proposal cannot be a quick refresh of a canned proposal. (Don’t fool yourself into thinking potential clients won’t recognise a cut-and-paste job that fails to address the client’s specific questions, needs, and desires and uses dated language.) Your submission must be tailored to the client’s particular needs to succeed.
Below are other suggestions for the three stages of successfully responding to RFPs:
Before you start
- Read the RFP carefully to get a thorough understanding of all requirements and expectations.
- Refrain from assuming; be sure to ask for clarification of anything that is unclear.
- Allocate the time necessary to complete the RFP, so you are not rushing to complete it at the last minute. Vow to avoid excessive sales and marketing hype; use straightforward, easy-to-understand wording.
Creating the proposal
- Demonstrate a clear understanding of the potential client’s current situation and the RFP and address the key problem(s) you will solve for them.
- Emphasise your strengths, experience, track record, and expertise with the specific type of facility and the decision-makers’ needs and wants.
- Offer unique and compelling solutions that differentiate your company from your competitors. What will you provide that the others will not?
- Be as specific as possible. For example, rather than, “We will take care of any issues,” paint a clear picture of measures you will take to ensure the restrooms are clean and orderly.
- Explain the Quality Assurance Management Program you will use to verify and report your cleaning results and validate that their needs are being met.
- Include credible and relevant testimonials and/or case studies to support your claims.
- Outline potential risks or challenges, such as labour and supply chain issues, and provide mitigation strategies.
Final – but vital – steps
- Add an appendix for auxiliary information not required in the RFP, such as brochures, company history, resumes, or detailed team bios. Be careful not to include anything required in the RFP itself in the appendix.
- Ensure your proposal is well-structured, visually appealing, and easy to read. Make it interesting and easy for the client to absorb essential information by using short paragraphs, subheadings, bullet points, and exciting—but relevant—graphics. If you are not a great writer or designer, get help.
- Provide a one-to-two-page executive summary that illustrates your understanding of the customer’s unique situation and how your proposal will best meet their needs, wants, and RFP requirements.
- Proofread all copy
- Ask someone you trust outside your company to provide honest feedback on how your proposal reads. Your proposal must be clear and compelling to the potential client, not just to you and your company.
- Submit the completed proposal on time and send a follow-up to confirm delivery.
If you do not win the bid, request a debriefing meeting in person, if possible, to obtain feedback.
Ask specific questions, such as why the other company was selected over yours, whether the client was impressed with your proposal, and where you could have been more convincing. This feedback can prove invaluable when developing your next proposal.
Follow these suggestions to create strategic proposals and win more profitable business. For more information on writing better proposals, I recommend the book Win More Business—Write Better Proposals by Michel Theriault.
This article was first published by ISSA and has been republished with permission
Mike Sawchuk is an industry consultant who assists owners and business leaders to drive growth in sales and profits. He can be reached through his company website at www.sawchukconsulting.com .