3 Tips to Submitting a Compliant Bid/Proposal

Updated: Aug 15

It’s honestly straightforward…


You have found the RFP of your DREAMS, and you want to put your best foot forward, show your expertise and win the job, but you aren’t sure what should go into the proposal. How do you find out that information?


Welp! It is your lucky day because I am going to ♪♪ give you a break, give you a break ♫♪♪ and break you off a piece of insider knowledge.


To be completely transparent, bits of information like this are difficult to come by. Why is that? Well, I will tell you why.


The bidding and contract process is confusing and mysterious. In my experience, the only contract/bidder knowledge you will get is from large Encyclopedia-type books that are very dry and hard to read, and after being in this field, I understand why.


These “better than a sleeping pill” books give you the baseline of how RFPs should work. They will provide definitions and general processes and maybe some real-life examples. These things are great to know for building your arsenal of contractual acumen. BUT… there is more to the story, and that story is for another day and another blog.


Starting off on the Wrong Foot

RFPs take a lot of time and effort to construct. It is a collaborate effort between multiple internal departments with the ownness and accountability on the contracts team.


The contracts team is the director making sure that everything comes together cohesively. We ensure that the RFP package includes all the legal, commercial, and technical information. This can take from days to months.


So let me be even more honest. If I took the time to compose an RFP “CHOCK FULL” of requirements and instructions and a bidder chooses to respond with a 1-page document that gives the pricing (mind you not in manner requested) and a thank you… Well, this makes me feel some "type of" way; if you can imagine, it’s not a good feeling.


This does affect not only how the bid is processed, but how I see you as a company (further discussed below). You do not want to start off on the wrong foot, before that foot is even in the door!


How to Avoid RFP Drama

I will give you the top 3 ways to avoid RFP drama.

  1. Submit the proposal EXACTLY as request

  2. Ensure all the essential documents are included

  3. KISS Method

Let’s Go into More Detail

Submit the proposal EXACTLY as requested.

Every RFP will have specific instructions on what is required and how to present that information.


Some RFPs will have a list of requirements, and others will have the criteria strewn throughout the RFP. If that happens, I recommend you highlight, make indications where those requirements are listed, or create your own checklist.


Read the RFP thoroughly for other submittal instructions.

For example, some RFPs required proposals to be X number of pages (i.e., only 40 pages); any information on page 41+ will not be considered.


Some may want partitions, information divided into sections, hard copy printed and mailed to a physical address, emailed, Dropboxed, placed on a flash drive/CDs, or faxed (yes, I said faxed). Some methods may seem old-fashioned and maybe “more work than its worth,” but those are the requirements, and if you want to be a viable bidder, you must follow the rules even if they do not make sense.


Why is submitting the proposal exactly important?


It is vital because this is my first INTRODUCTION and IMPRESSION of you as a company. Can you follow the directions? Did you follow directions?

Your RFP submission indicates a couple of things:

  1. Your probable chances of success

  2. The potential of trust and relationship building

Your bid is already starting to build a rapport with the Client. So here is a word of advice


This tool will win you the job and potentially get your foot in the door for future work.


Ensure all the essential documents are included


Essential documents are the metaphorical MEAT and Potatoes of the RFP. So here is a hypothetical question. How can the Client evaluate your bids if the critical documents aren’t included?


Easy answer: THEY CAN’T.


This may seem obvious, but you would be appalled by the conditions some of the bids are presented from (SMBs and Major) companies equally.


What is construed as essential documents?


Top 3 normally

  1. Pricing

  2. Technical Components (drawings, specs)

  3. Schedule

Others:

- Safety Procedures

- Quality Procedures

- Resumes of Management

- Signature pages


Anything else specific will be called out in the RFP.


Another OBVI freebee: Sometimes, RFP will include pricing sheets and other forms that you may be required to use and complete. They are placed there for a reason so PLEASE DO JUST THAT! Use the forms. NO EXCUSES!


Excuse list:

  1. My company doesn’t estimate like that

  2. My company doesn’t use forms like that

  3. We don't provide that information

  4. We just don’t do that

Let me yell it again… NOOOOO EXCUSES! In most bids, there are there are sections called clarifications or alternative bid where you can provide additional information.


So, for example, if the Client asks for specific itemized pricing if it does not make sense for your company, DO IT ANYWAY. In the alternative bid section, place an additional pricing structure that makes sense and explain the benefits/reasoning for this method.


I cannot stress this enough, but following instructions is helpful to the evaluation team, and they will appreciate this effort. Following instructions cannot win you the bid, but I can tell you it may open other doors or maybe help to place you on other bid lists.


KISS Method (Keep It Simple…)


The KISS Method is the cherry on the pie, so to speak. The obvious question: Why should I keep it simple? I mean, these RFPs are complicated and sometimes support complex work.


I’m glad someone asked! First, you do not know who is evaluating your proposal, and everyone should be able to pick up your submission, read it, and understand the concept. In my career, it is incredible to receive and read proposals that do not make sense – even the technical sections. I know I am not an engineer, but the errors were glaring. Why didn’t things make sense?

  1. No proofreading

  2. Lousy copy and paste jobs (which leads back to no proofreading)

  3. Information was left out (refer to #1)

Long story short, lack of proofreading is the #1 culprit. READ READ READ READ READ and READ READ READ again. Have more than one person read the proposal; everyone from the Engineer to the Administrator Assistant.


A fresh pair of eyes who is unfamiliar with the proposal is beneficial. They will be able to see errors you missed and ask questions. I can almost guarantee you if they ask questions, your evaluator will probably ask the same questions. The best part is that THIS SERVICE IS FREE! Use the resources to help you put your best proposal forward.


Second, the world does not revolve around you (sorry to say that). Your point of contact is more than likely juggling multiple proposals and actual agreements which have been executed.


You want to make your proposal easy to locate the essential data and easy to read. Do not burden your evaluator by placing non-essential information in the front of the RFP. What’s non-essential information?


Basically, all that "salesy" brochure type of information.


Let me scream it loud for those in the back.


“STICK TO THE SCRIPT!” Stick to what was asked first, then place the “salesy” information in the back.


Conclusion


TL;DR: A compliant bid follows instructions and includes all the crucial documents which are easy to read and locate.

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