Responding to Requests for Proposals (RFP) can be about as much fun as going to the dentist for root canal or trying to contort yourself into a 2′ by 2′ box. We’ve all been there. We’ve dealt with 80 page RFPs that had a 1 page description of the project and 79 pages of legalese. We’ve dealt with RFPs that demanded a proposal format that required you to throw out all of the previous boilerplate content that you’d meticulously crafted in order to conform with their requirements. We’ve tried to extract, from a very loosely defined project description, what the potential client wanted us to provide and then tried to explain in enough detail, but not too much detail, how we were going to fill their needs and why we’re the best choice.

Why did we do this? Because we received a RFP and are constantly on the lookout for new business opportunities.

We’ve treated RFPs like they are some rare opportunity for us to get our proposal in the door at an organization and hopefully win the project based on the merit of the project (which is what a true RFP process is). It is rare that we turn away from a RFP because of this, this nagging thought that “how could I turn away from this possible source of income and when will I find another RFP to bid on?”

The truth is that RFPs are not rare, they are simply dispersed amongst the digital ether, collecting dust in the dark crevasses that are municipal websites, websites for non-profit organizations, or press release sites that don’t do a good job of getting the news out. Sites like the RFP Database show that there are tons of projects out there to be found and bid on by you at any given moment, but that aggregation of these projects is the procurement challenge facing us vendors. The information is crying out for aggregation!

Once we let go of the idea that RFPs are rare by sharing them and helping in their aggregation, we can suddenly allow ourselves the freedom of being selective in the RFPs that we respond to. We’ll be able to say “we’re not a 100% fit for this RFP” or “this RFPs requirements are just too ridiculous for me to spend time on”, and actually be able to spend more time responding to the RFPs that we are confident we could/should win.

By allowing ourselves to be more selective in the RFPs we respond to, we’ll immediately increase the return on investment that is the time spent writing a proposal and wooing the client.