A proposal with a Q&A component offers a valuable opportunity to both gain insight about the proposing entity and to put your organization in a better position to win more bids. Many requests for proposals (RFPs) allow bidders to email a contact person specific written questions, while others will offer a pre-bid conference where bidders can seek clarifications either in person, over the phone or via web-conferencing technology.
No matter the medium, the chance to get added context about the soliciting organization’s needs and expectations is one you should definitely take advantage of. Organizations new to the bidding experience are sometimes reluctant to ask questions because many assume it portrays them as less knowledgeable, but we’re here to assure you that is certainly not the case. To ensure you are asking the right questions in the right way, here are some tips to help you make the most out of proposal Q&As.
Understand the bidding requirements fully.
All RFPs include requirements the bid offeror needs a vendor to provide. In a well-written RFP, these requirements will be direct and straightforward (though, anyone experienced in proposal bidding knows that this is not always the case). If you are unsure whether your organization meets a bid’s requirements, submit a clarifying question or ask if an alternative qualification is acceptable rather than giving up on the opportunity prematurely.
For example, if an RFP lists that a bidder must have at least five years of experience, but your organization was only founded three years ago, you may assume that you don’t meet their requirements and choose to forgo bidding. However, that’s not always the best decision.
Instead, reach out to the designated RFP contact to explain your organization’s situation. Offer an alternative, like combined years of relevant experience from senior management, to meet that requirement. In our experience, this is quite often an acceptable alternative.
Get notified when proposal Q&A responses are published.
Organizations publishing an RFP often allow interested bidders to sign up to receive email notifications related to the bid. Also, bid offerors increasingly use vendor portal platforms to share information related to their RFP, including Q&A responses, with interested bidders.
These are excellent opportunities to make sure your bid is fully informed. Ensure at least one member of your team is responsible for registering to receive these updates. In the vast majority of cases, an organization will publish each and every question that was submitted, regardless of who asked the question. Having an opportunity to review the kinds of questions, as well as the answers that were given, will allow you an opportunity to ensure you are crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s.
Use a proposal’s Q&A to gain insight into your competition.
A proposal’s Q&A responses can offer valuable insights about the businesses competing for the bid.
For one, a bid’s Q&A component can give a broad sense as to how many vendors are interested in the bid. If your firm’s questions are the only ones submitted, it is likely that not many other firms are bidding on the opportunity. If, on the other hand, the pre-bid Q&A conference is a packed room, it’s safe to conclude that a large number of vendors are participating. In either case, having this knowledge will be helpful in deciding whether to go after a bid, how to craft your response and the best way to go about pricing.
By looking at the questions other firms are submitting, your organization can also get a general sense of the competition’s location, experience level and even capacity. These insights can then be invaluable in tailoring your own bid response to ensure you are differentiating your organization from the rest.
Use the bid Q&A to start building your relationship with the bid offeror.
Building a relationship with the RFP evaluators is another great strategy to ensure your proposal stands out. By asking at least one question in advance of your bid submission, you are introducing your business name into the consciousness of the bid offeror early in the process.
Pre-bid Q&A conferences, either online or in-person, are similarly an excellent opportunity to create a strong identity for your organization’s bid in the eyes of the reviewer. A thoughtful question asked with an enthusiastic attitude will create a positive impression for your organization. This is your opportunity to convey your firm’s confidence, dedication and competence.
Experienced vendors know that while the services and products one provides are key, the manner in which the offering is delivered also matters a great deal. A winning proposal demonstrates that your firm is best placed to deliver the desired product and that it will do so in a way that is pleasant, efficient and rewarding for your potential client. The Q&A period of the bid is a great opportunity to get a head start on establishing your business as one that is committed to this specific opportunity and is uniquely prepared to provide a positive experience in addition to a cost-competitive bid.
Make the proposal Q&A work for you.
From soliciting additional context about the proposal opportunity itself to gaining insights about potential competition to developing a stronger personal connection between your business and the RFP contact, taking a proposal’s Q&A component seriously will help you win more bids.