To Bid or Not to Bid: How to Make Faster, Better RFP Decisions

6 Questions to Help You Make Faster, Better RFP Response Decisions

Making quick, smart, and strategic decisions on RFP responses are imperative. And, of course, any proposal team would love a crystal ball to ask, “Bid or no bid?” 

How often has your team gone down a rabbit hole of what seemed like a “sure thing” only to find the bid probably isn’t going to stand out? Or you’re in the final laps of an RFP response and legal throws you a curveball? If only you could see into the future and know if you’re investing the right amount of time, resources, and investment for a winning bid.

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While a crystal-ball solution isn’t quite available, there are several tactics to help predict what may deliver greater chances of success. It’s all about looking through the lens of “Win or no win?” because that’s what you ultimately want to determine. Here are the questions you should be asking—and answering—before deciding on the ultimate “bid or no bid” question.

Question #1: Do we have the capacity?

Answer: Often, proposal teams get in the mode of saying “yes” to everything. This leads to a team that’s maxed out and the quality of RFP responses and the business itself suffers as a result. It’s important to quickly evaluate and eliminate what you automatically know isn’t worth the time or a strategic business decision. “No” is an OK word to use and prioritizing quality over quantity is essential.

Question #2: What is the best way to do a first-pass evaluation?

Answer: Make the proposal team’s lives a little bit easier. While full shredding of an RFP can be intensive and time consuming, many of the latest tools for RFP responses or analysis have some level of automated shredding, allowing you to see quickly what the requirements and key RFP questions might be. This at-a-glance evaluation can provide an initial check whether the RFP is even worth pursuing.

Question #3: Can we successfully answer key questions?

Answer: Answering this question actually means asking more questions! Whether it’s a checklist or a scorecard, key questions need to be answered upfront for a bid/no-bid analysis. Do you have a previous relationship with the customer? What’s the competition like? Is this in your area of expertise? What will this deal mean for your business and investment? 

According to proposal expert Tom Sant, the following seven questions will make or break your decision:

  • What is the customer’s problem, need, issue or opportunity?
  • Why does it matter?
  • What outcomes does the client want to achieve?
  • Which outcome matters the most?
  • What solutions can we offer?
  • Which one is the best fit?
  • What differentiates us from others who may be bidding on this opportunity?

The responses to these aren’t a solo affair, leading you to the next question….

Question #4: Who should get involved?

Answer: All of the answers to these questions can’t be in a vacuum. Next step is input from stakeholders—that means legal, product and sales teams, you name it. Legal might flag a “no-go” from the very beginning. Product managers and sales reps will be able to spot right away if your company’s product or service meet requirements or if a competitor has an edge. Make the subject matter experts part of the decision before anything is pursued.

Question #5: We decided to bid…now what?

Answer: Luckily, by following the process above, you already have a head start with the quick first draft and getting all the stakeholders involved for input. Now comes the task of engaging deeper to craft a polished and in-depth proposal. Remember to focus on value throughout and keep the writing crisp and clear. And be sure to avoid RFP response mistakes, like being overly sales-y or not keeping an organized content library for all proposals in the past, present, and future!

Question #6: We decided not to bid…now what?

Answer: Writing and sending a personalized and contextual response will go a long way to offerors. Thank them for the opportunity, explain specifics as to why you’re declining based on your analysis, and note your hope for future opportunities to engage. 

A decline letter is absolutely critical to actually stay in contention for future RFPs. No responses—or worse submitting a weak proposal just for the sake of submitting—will lessen the chances for future business when the opportunity is right for both you and the customer.

Final Answers

With this process, you can actually have your own RFP crystal ball. Determining whether to bid or not to bid is both a science and art. Embracing collaboration and technology can finally make this decision-making faster, easier, and (best of all) more successful.

Download the Ultimate RFP Response Process Guide to learn how your team can win  proposals in less time.