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How to go beyond RFP compliance

Winning takes more than mere RFP compliance

Since all of your competitors have the same RFP, you can expect them to at least be compliant.  If you want to win, you must be more than merely compliant.

People who are new to proposal writing, especially technical staff, often don’t know how to word their responses to RFP requirements.  Even if they get advice like “make sure your response goes beyond mere compliance” they may not know how to proceed.  Figuring out what words to use can seem really hard.  Here is an example of how to respond to a simple RFP requirement and go beyond mere compliance.

The RFP says:

Software must be virus scanned before installing updates on the servers.

It would be really easy to respond to this by saying:

We will scan software for viruses before installing updates on the servers.

This would be compliant.  Just barely.  But it’s certainly not going to impress your potential customer.  It’s doesn’t tell them anything more than what they told you. Besides, everyone who has the RFP is going to respond with something that is at least compliant. Being merely compliant does nothing to discriminate you from your competition.

And yet, some requirements are stated so simply that it’s hard not to respond with something like “We’ll do what you asked for.”  When you don’t know what to say to go beyond mere compliance, try this formula: Who, what, where, how, when, and why.

Using the example above, the response could become:

See also:
Proposal writing

Who will do it?
Software will be virus scanned by our qualified technicians before installing updates on the servers.

What will they do?
Our qualified technicians will scan software for viruses using Norton Anti-Virus before installing updates on the servers.

Where will they do it?
Our qualified technicians will scan software for viruses using Norton Anti-Virus before installing updates on any servers at your facility.

How will they do it?
Our qualified technicians will scan software for viruses on a test system that is not connected to the network before installing any updates on servers at your facility.

When will they do it?
Any time new software must be installed, our qualified technicians will scan the software for viruses on a test system that is not connected to the network before installing any updates on servers at your facility.

And the most important…

Why will they do it?
In order to ensure the reliability of your systems, and to make sure that they remain virus free, any time new software must be installed, our qualified technicians will scan the software for viruses on a test system that is not connected to the network before installing any updates on servers at your facility.

Now compare this statement to the original, merely compliant version:

We will scan software for viruses before installing updates on the servers.

What a huge difference!  If you were the customer, and had to pick between the two, which would you pick?  Without doing anything else differently, you can discriminate yourself from your competition, simply by going beyond mere compliance.

Here is another example:

Requirement: Documentation shall be kept up-to-date.

Response: Our software developers will use [insert name], a configuration management tool, to keep documentation updated and synchronized with new versions.  [insert name] will provide a web-based repository where you will be able to view the documentation at any time.  In addition, [insert name] will also ensure that documentation is updated with every new software update released.  By keeping documentation up-to-date, we lower long-term maintenance costs and increase the quality of the software that we deliver to you.

Remember that “why” is the most important question.  It should make clear how to the customer will be impacted and show them the benefit of your approach.  Writing benefit statements is usually the hardest thing for new proposal writers to get accustomed to.  It may help to think in terms of results.  Always make sure that you address the result of what you are proposing to do.

If you think that the result is obvious or will simply provide what they are asking for, then dig deeper and show how what you will do will either deliver what they want or help them achieve their goals.  In the example above, you have to ask yourself, “Why do they want the documentation kept up-to-date?”  In software development, the reason is usually related to making sure that the code can be maintained.  But it could also be related to user-friendliness and the training of new users.
 

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