ITL #196 RFP quandaries: the art of responding to proposals

3 years, 8 months ago


A Request for Proposal (RFP) may represent a fantastic opportunity for building business, or be a complete waste of time. By Lisa George.

It is that point in the year again when much time is spend responding to RFPs, presentations and follow ups. You are lucky if you are able to seal the deal.

In many cases, one may never even hear back from the prospective client. And no reasons are given why they have not decided to go ahead with your proposal. It can often be quite a daunting, time consuming and frustrating process.

Sometimes, however, it can pay rich dividends. So, it is important to know when to pursue…and when to let go.

Do not spend your billable hours responding to RFPs from companies that are just testing the water and have no idea what PR agency fees normally are. Or what PR even is.

These are the people who send out requests like, ‘We are a new consumer electronic online store, what can you do for us and how much will it cost? Please give us your best price’; and then bombard you with follow up emails.

Lack of clarity

They have no idea what they want and do not have the patience to even write down their requirements. Their main concern seems to be the price factor, and they may just go for any agency that quotes them the lowest fee.

Then there are the others who send you a 30-page RFP document which reads so much like a proposal that you do not know what more you are expected to add to it! Looks like they copy pasted the existing agency’s proposal and now wants to see if anyone can add anything more to it.

In all likelihood, they will just go back to their agency after realizing others are charging more or less what the current agency has quoted.

A proposal quota

We have often been chased by procurement departments who have a target of submitting a certain number of proposals. They do not care if the agency has the capacity to carry out the scope of work or has prior experience in their industry sector. They just want a proposal!

Before deciding to work on the proposals, have a chat with the team who send you the proposal to figure out exactly what they are looking for. Are they aware of industry billable rates and why did they decide to approach your agency? Maybe they are looking for a niche sector experience that you are specialized in and therefore they chose you. In that case, it is worth pursuing.

In some cases, when a prospective client is not willing to give any information about their budget, it is worthwhile doing your own research to find out if they have an existing agency; and if you know the rates of that agency, you can figure out if the company has the kind of budget that you normally work for.

Tight deadlines

RFPs can often come in last-minute, with tight deadlines for submission: like within a week. If the deadline is going to interfere with the work you are doing for your existing clients, you are probably better off focusing on your current workload.

It is also very tough to put together a response to a RFP if it needs to be responded to immediately. For this reason, you must have a template in place and have a quick brainstorming session with your team that has experience in the sector; and divide the work among the team members. If everyone pulls together, the RFP can be done within the stipulated deadline and your team will be better prepared to present, if the opportunity arises.

Though we may not like it at times, the fact remains that RFPs are part of agency life and helpful in building the client portfolio. So, do your background research and pursue the clients you think will be a valuable addition to your business.

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The Author

Lisa George

Lisa George, Director, Iris Public Relations, Dubai, UAE.

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