March 6, 2012

RFPs: The Right Way

Filed under: Client/Agency Relations,New Business — Joe Grant @ 2:59 pm

An RFP comes your way and the prospect is right up your alley. You decide it’s Full Speed Ahead!

Here’s the first thing to remember about answering RFPs: it’s nothing more than a stand-in for you. It’s a salesman. And so it needs to be likable, concise, and focused entirely on prospect need. Just like you if you were in the room when they read it.

Appoint a battle captain – Each RFP requires a heavyweight, one of your best, with the clout to marshal the company resources so it gets done with the least amount of tears and sweat. Don’t give it to someone with time on his hands and don’t anoint a neophyte either; there’s too much at stake.

1st Draft – Have a professional writer write it, someone who despises subjunctive clauses and passive voice. Do not dole out sections to multiple authors or else it will read like a committee’s fractured report. Edit ruthlessly. Be concise. Leave out all that just-in-case fluff which can make it look like you’re throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. This is an ad for your agency – write it like one!

Focus on 1 takeaway – Like any good ad there should be a singular mental leave-behind, an inescapable shimmering message pointed directly at THEM. Even though they want the goods on you, think about it: it’s not about you, it’s really about them, right?

Which means you have to use plenty of these phrases: This is relevant to (prospect) because… This benefits you several ways… Our experience here applies directly to (prospect’s) needs because… Tie any horn-tooting to their unexpressed but ever present “what’s-this-mean-for-us” concerns.

Cautions on case histories – Fuse each to their needs — never parade a case history without tightly lacing it to their problems and opportunities. Think of it this way: your case histories have to be in effect about them. Two, maybe three are all you need or else it gets confusing. Too many or too long and your best success stories appear merely self-aggrandizing.

Art direct it – Put an art director to work making your RFP response fun and accessible. Tell a story, use cartoons, make it a joy to read. But keep in mind this is your sales guy in loco agentis so don’t go over the top or it will have the same effect as wearing a loud plaid sport coat.

Bio-prudence – Be careful about showcasing every last person in the agency. Instead, customize each bio with something like, Susie Smith will be [prospect]’s primary day-to-day contact. She’s known for…and her experience [describe] applies directly to your marketing needs becauseThe idea is to make them WANT Susie working on their business, and of course the same goes for others on your list. Throwing in too many resumes can look like you’re padding… and expensive.

Show some ankle – Imagine their surprise when buried in all those somniferous RFPs they’re plowing through, yours gives them just a little tease, a lagniappe, by showing one or two snippets of creative with their logo or product. Now you’ve got their attention and if you do it right they’ll want to see more. Bada-bing! I’m not suggesting creating full-blown campaigns, but use their name and I.D. when you can. It’s flattering.

Be memorable – Nothing’s more disappointing when we do “lost prospect” interviews (see below) than learning that the client, who chose someone else, doesn’t even remember your proposal. It means you made no impression whatsoever! Well of course they didn’t choose you — if it wasn’t crafted to be memorable, how could you possibly create arresting materials for them? Be not afraid to risk a little – you can’t lose what you don’t have.

Table appeal – Client committees often begin their decision-making meeting by laying out all the RFP proposals side by side on a conference room table. Make sure yours stands out and is immediately recognizable. Don’t be like the agency — I’m not making this up — that not only failed to have it’s name on the proposal cover, it wasn’t anywhere inside either!

Keep these suggestions in mind and let us know if your batting average improves.

Our sales pitch – We interview “lost prospects,” i.e. the ones you didn’t get, to find out why you’re not winning your share of new business. Because we’re an outside source, clients tend to give us direct answers which we use to provide you with straight-shooting recommendations on how to stop striking out. For details, call Joe Grant at 239.537.6133 direct to find out more. It’s a small investment which can pay off big.

SubscribeSubscribe using an RSS feed reader 


1 Comment »

  1. […] recently breezed through a blog entry by Joe Grant entitled “RFPs: The Right Way ( When reading it, I couldn’t help but to fall into the trap thinking to myself, “Yeah, we […]

    Pingback by The Three Tenets of Strong RFPs — March 23, 2012 @ 2:04 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: