One thing I’ve learned in the past year is that probably the most important single marketing challenge to anyone reading this blog relates to how to prepare for and respond to RFP (Request for Proposals) challenges. Matt Handal’s webinar certainly attracted the greatest response of anything I’ve blogged about in 2013, and surveys of “most read” articles relevant to the architectural and engineering community almost inevitably touch on proposal responses and quality. Consider, for example, Handal’s well written blog posting: “Why Mistakes In Proposals Don’t Matter…and What Does” and Freestyle Editorial’s Seven Things Proposal Evaluators Loathe (Other than Fruitcake).
I’m not criticising or questioning the importance of RFP responses in design competitions, nor the crucial impact of public (or private) tender/bidding proposals for general contractors or sub-trades. Undoubtedly, much of this industry’s marketing schedule resolves around submission deadlines and tender closings — as the estimating, creative, marketing and competitive processes reach their peak. If we don’t get it right here, there is no work in the pipeline.
However, as Handal rightfully observes, the proposals technical quality is often far less important than their intrinsic value and relevance — the ability for the proposers to demonstrate a true understanding of the clients’ needs, and this understanding I think rarely occurs from technical understanding of proposal design and compliance systems. Yet, as I’ve noted elsewhere, there is an intriguing argument that quantity trumps quality in developing abilities — so grinding out seemingly bad proposals may indeed get you further ahead than the standard advice to be selective and thoughtful about where to put your proposal energies.
Sure, let’s not fight the consulting and business development market: We really need to know about effective RFP preparation and responses. Just remember, however, your underlying talents, passion and values — and your ability to forge great relationships and maintain them with your current, potential and past clients — will define your success far more than how well-prepared you are at the RFP stage, if only because you almost certainly will be well-prepared if the precursors are in place.