Replying to Your First RFP

Contributed by Pamela Racer, GCAP Counselor (Asheville/Cullowhee)

You want to move into the government market. You have been looking at opportunities and would like to respond to a government Request for Proposal (RFP). You have found a RPP that seems to be a good fit for your business. Like every owner, you want to make sure that you are making the best representation for your business on your first opportunity.

Before responding to an RFP, it’s important to understand some basic items that go into shaping a successful response package. A RFP is a document that lays out the framework and requirements for a government solicitation. A RFP usually requires interested companies to respond to technical requirements and address how their product or service will address the government’s needs. An important thing to consider when responding to a RFP is that the customer will likely be receiving responses from several vendors, so you need to provide a clear narrative and lay out specifically what you have to offer as far as capabilities. With a RFP, the process is generally considered to be a formal request, meaning that the information you provide on your response regarding your solution or service needs to be highly detailed and precise.

Companies that want to have a serious competitive advantage in the government marketplace need to ensure that they are doing their “homework.” You should know who your competitors are and how your products or services are different from theirs. Presenting this information to the government will differentiate your response, allowing you to stand out from your competitors.

When responding to a government RFP, it’s imperative that all parties involved in providing a response (prime, subcontractor, teaming partner, etc.) fully understand the stated requirements. You will need to highlight your organization’s understanding of the client’s problems and real issues they face daily in the RFP response.

Understanding the customers’ needs and how your competitors may respond can help show how your product or solution will address issues that the customer is concerned about. This strategy can help you win contracts by becoming the “solution provider.”

You MUST understand what deliverables are being requested by the government and government “end-users.” Having a full understanding of deliverables by the government will enable you to respond to the government’s request and meet all components with the right pricing and scheduling.

Make sure that you follow ALL instructions related to the cover page, font size, page limits, etc., EXACTLY as provided in the RFP.

Make sure that you have read and fully understand the Scope/Statement of Work (SOW). You will need to address how you will meet and exceed their expectations in your formal RFP proposal response. Most importantly, you will need to make sure to respond to ALL components listed in the SOW in your proposal response package. Being consistent with the original agency’s RFP format can be a major key to success in a government RFP response. Review and provide detailed responses to ALL specific tasks noted in the RFP request.

The RFP response deadline should be reviewed and used to set timelines to ensure you are fully prepared to respond in a timely manner. Give yourself at least a 24-hour window.

Most importantly if you are not successful at your first RFP submission…Keep trying.