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What to do and what not to do when responding to a customer’s request for information or sources sought announcement

A pre-proposal response is not the same as a proposal response.

A lot of companies make the mistake of treating a customer request for information as an opportunity to start selling them and end up sending them a mini-proposal. This is not the best way to position your company when the customer issues a request for information or makes a sources sought announcement.

5 things you should NOT do in your RFI or sources sought response

See also:
Pre-RFP Pursuit
  1. Sell. It’s the wrong time. Selling at the wrong time makes you look pushy and out of touch. Don’t be that kind of salesperson.
  2. Brag. Don’t be the best, state-of-the-art, unique, recognized, or even special. If you asked someone for some information to help you do something and they started bragging and talking about themselves, what would you think of them?
  3. Give away the store. Don't give away your differentiators, or anything else you don’t want to become part of the published requirements. Don’t give your advantages to your competition. Save them for the proposal. Only discuss the things you’d like to see in the RFP.
  4. Describe your approaches or how you will fulfill their requirements. Focus on what the requirements should be. Don’t focus on proposing your solution to meeting them. 
  5. Be happy to respond to a future RFP or send them a proposal. Of course you'll be happy to get a contract. Instead of saying that, be happy to solve the challenges and work with them to meet their objectives.

7 things you SHOULD do in your RFI or sources sought response

  1. Follow the instructions.  They provide clues regarding what the customer is trying to do. 
  2. Affirmatively state your intent to bid. They want to know who might respond if they release an RFP.
  3. Describe your capabilities and the results you have achieved. They want to know if you are relevant to their needs.
  4. Describe your qualifications. They want to know if you can credibly bid.
  5. Show that you have the resources, capacity, depth, and breadth. They want to know if you can meet their needs. 
  6. Assess the potential challenges and risks. Offer some insight into things that could cause problems for the customer, and show that you can help them address those issues without giving away your secrets before the proposal.
  7. Help the customer improve the RFP. The only thing harder to write than a proposal is an RFP. Make sure you explain your recommendations.
Examples of recommendations you can make about the RFP to help the customer while gaining a competitive advantage... PropLIBRARY Subscribers get our specific recommendations that can help you influence the RFP. Here's an example of the recommendations you can make to wire an RFP in your favor based on staffing.

10 questions you can build your RFI and sources sought responses around

  1. How can you introduce yourself as a company that will solve the customer’s problem, fulfill their needs, improve their ability to meet their objectives, or deliver the results they are looking for?
  2. What details has the customer requested? Are those details part of your story or a side note?
  3. Can you meet the requirements as currently stated? 
  4. What can you suggest to change or improve the requirements?
  5. Is there any information you can provide, without giving away your secrets, that will help the customer move their solicitation forward or achieve more successful outcomes?
  6. Do you want to recommend that the solicitation be set aside for a particular type of business?
  7. Is there a contract vehicle you’d like to recommend they use?
  8. Are there any recommendations you can make regarding the solicitation that would give you a competitive advantage if the customer accepted them?
  9. Will you need a teaming partner or subcontractors to respond?
  10. Is there information about them or the project that you would like to see included in the future RFP?

Remember that they released the sources sought notice as a step toward figuring out how to get what they need. They have a process they must follow. They released the sources sought notice because they need to complete that process. They don’t want your proposal. Yet. 

No matter how great your response to the sources sought notice is, you are not going to get the business. Yet. No matter how great an impression you make, it’s not going to matter much. The most you can hope for is to convince the customer to make some positive changes to the future RFP. If you have issues, like needing to use past performance as a subcontractor or from a private sector contract, now is the time to recommend that the customer make it acceptable in the RFP and not penalize it by giving it a neutral rating.

Remember that you are positioning ahead of submitting a proposal in the future. Whether you are qualified and whether your offering is acceptable will be determined by their evaluation of your proposal. But it would be nice io have them recognize your company as one that was insightful and helpful to them getting to that point.

Let's discuss your challenges with preparing proposals and winning new business...

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More information about "Carl Dickson"

Carl Dickson

Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY

Carl is an expert at winning in writing, with more than 30 year's experience. He's written multiple books and published over a thousand articles that have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is also a frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant and can be reached at carl.dickson@captureplanning.com. To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.

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