How To Win RFPs in 2023 (23 Insider Secrets)

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According to Loopio, only 44% of RFPs are won! That goes down to 38% if you are a small to midsize company (up to 500 employees).

A RFP process is highly competitive so the odds aren’t in your favor.

But by putting a strong proposal process in place, you will give yourself a competitive edge over other bidders

In this article, we’ll uncover 23 insider secrets to getting ahead of the competition. 

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How to win an RFP

Winning an RFP requires careful preparation, focus and skill.

Before the RFP even begins, successful winners typically undertake pre-engagement and qualification activities to ensure they are in a race they can win. 

At the response stage, it is important to plan out how content will be presented and ensure it is tailored to hit all of the pain points that the customer is trying to solve. 

After completing the response, successful bidders will always follow up, answer questions and ensure they leave no stone unturned. 

Taking all of this into account, we have broken down these elements into much more detail so you can be sure your process and strategy are optimized to win. 

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Pre RFP Response

Arguably, there is a high percentage of RFPs that are already decided before the RFP is released. You don’t want to be anywhere near those if you haven’t spoken to the customer before.

These will tank your win rate and cripple your resource availability that could be responding to RFPs that you could actually win.

So how do you make sure you are the front runner before the RFP gun goes off? You need to get in there early.

1.  Pre-engagement

Establishing good relationships with the customer and getting to know their needs is vital to increase your chances of winning the RFP. Blind bids (submitting a response with no pre-RFP activity) aren’t impossible to win but are considerably harder.

2.  Access to Decision Makers

Building early relationships with decision-makers is vital. You do this to understand their goals and objectives and position yourself as the solution that can best solve their problems. This will make you one of the front runners before you have even started.

3.  Opportunity Qualification

Understanding all the requirements and pain points of the customer and assessing if your business can meet those needs will increase your chance of being selected for the RFP. 

Qualify with MEDDPICC, BANT, or a similar framework throughout the whole sales cycle to ensure you are only working on RFPs that you know you can win.

4.  Fits the Ideal Customer Profile (ICP)

Analyzing customer data and ensuring that they fit within your ICP is another vital aspect of the pre-RFP process.

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5.  Before You Respond 

Before you can respond, there is an important RFP qualification process you should do. This is critical so that you can best prepare for a bid/no bid meeting and to ensure that you have all the information collected and understood that will impact your chance of success.

The following are key things to consider and understand before deciding whether you will deploy expensive resources to respond to the RFP. Remember, not responding is sometimes the way to win.

6.  Understand the rules

Understanding the rules and requirements in the RFP is critical. Knowing all of the details upfront allows you to understand if it’s a suitable fit, the response format, deadlines, any unique steps, how to submit, and so on.

This is really important so that you don’t get disqualified or lose marks on technicalities.

7.  Team resourcing and tasks

Ensure that all tasks are listed and assigned to the appropriate people to respond. Set a hard deadline date on each task and leave yourself enough time for internal reviews and updates.

8.  Value proposition

Crafting a strong value proposition that clearly demonstrates why your solution is best suited for the customer will help you win the RFP. This should be threaded through your RFP response narrative. 

Your value proposition should be the backbone of your RFP response. After reading it, this is the message that you want the buyer to remember on their drive home.

9.  Win themes

Identifying key win themes in which you demonstrate your strengths compared to other vendors helps convince a buyer that you are the best solution.

These will be unique to each RFP response. You should aim for 3 to 5 win themes. These will be woven into your RFP narrative, demo, and ongoing contact with the buyer. This is essentially the answer to the question of ‘How will you win this contract?’. 

Tip: I like to have at least 1 win theme for each of the following categories: Commercials (pricing/T&Cs), delivery/fulfilment/aftercare, and product/solution.

10.  Price vs Budget (and competitors)

Knowing the prospects budget as well as competitor prices allows you to create a competitively priced bid that increases your chances of success in an RFP competition. 

If you think you are more expensive, then your value proposition and win themes must show the buyer why they should pay more to work with you. Sometimes there can be as much as a 70% weighting on price. Take this into account and ensure you will be commercially viable.

11.  Timeline

Making sure there is enough time to complete the RFP response is something I have seen missed numerous times.

Make sure you haven’t just been invited to fill up the numbers and if the deadline is really short, treat that as a big red flag. If you can’t speak to the prospect, then I would move on.

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12.  Incumbents

If there is already an existing supplier then understanding their current setup and where its shortcomings are can help you create a more attractive proposal. Be sure to call these out in the RFP.

As the saying goes in sales, your biggest competition is the buyer doing nothing! Show them why they need to move and the cost to them if they don’t go with you.

13.  Solution fit

Making sure that the proposed solutions properly align with the customer’s requirements is essential. You will need your SMEs to flush out the strengths and any weaknesses. 

Make sure you have a game plan on how to cover any weaknesses. When thought through, you can often turn these into positives for a buyer.

14.  Outliers

This is the hardest to quantify but listen to your sales reps and always ask them for this. Is there any other reason that has made you feel we won’t win this? Sometimes it’s a gut feeling or a comment someone made but it can make all the difference to uncover challenges and issues that aren’t so obvious.

15.  Bid/No Bid Meeting

You should hold a bid/no bid meeting with all senior stakeholders. This may include sales, fulfilment/delivery, SMEs, proposal management, support, technical leads, and leadership. 

The bid/no bid meeting should be structured and led by sales or proposal management if you have that function. It should cover everything in the above sections so that everyone has a good understanding of the chances of winning. 

This is one of the most fundamental parts of the RFP process. You only want to commit to an RFP response if you know how you will win and you have all teams onboard.

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Creating the response

Now you have decided that you will bid, you need to get your response the best it can possibly be. You want to decide if you will go with a written document or a slide deck. I use for many of my responses now. Worth thinking about.

Here are the best ways you can ensure your response will set you apart from the competition.

16.  Structure

A winning RFP structure is a well-organized and comprehensive document that clearly communicates your company’s strengths, capabilities, and proposed solutions to meet the customer’s needs and requirements. 

A winning RFP response structure typically includes the following key elements:

  1. Executive Summary: A concise and compelling overview of your company, your proposed solution, and the key benefits it offers.
  1. Problem Statement: A clear and detailed description of the customer’s needs and requirements and how your solution addresses them.
  1. Solution Overview: A high-level description of your proposed solution, including key features, benefits, and differentiators.
  1. Technical Approach: A detailed explanation of your technical approach and how it meets the customer’s requirements.
  1. Implementation Plan: A clear and detailed plan for how you will implement the solution, including timeline, resources, and milestones.
  1. Pricing and Cost Proposal: A clear and transparent proposal for the cost of the solution, including all relevant expenses and any contingencies.
  1. Qualifications and Experience: A detailed description of your company’s qualifications and experience, including relevant case studies and customer references.
  1. Performance and Service Level Agreements: A clear and concise description of the performance and service level agreements you will provide, including any warranties and guarantees.
  1. Conclusion and Call to Action: A concise and compelling conclusion that summarizes your key points and calls the customer to action.

Although not vital, an RFP cover letter is often contained within a winning submission. It provides the opportunity to set the scene and get more personalized with your primary contact. If in doubt, include a cover letter addressed to the key decision maker.

By having a well-structured and compelling RFP that has your value proposition and win themes flowing through, you can increase your chances of winning the business. This will clearly demonstrate your ability to meet the customer’s needs and deliver value.

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17.  Use proposal templates

A winning RFP response will almost definitely be based on proposal templates. Even if it was your last successful submission, it still counts as a template. This provides you structure and if you keep using the latest and greatest, your next one should always be that little bit better.

18.  Be direct and concise

As you will see in the below top reasons RFPs are lost, being direct and concise is vital to RFP success. If a prospect reads your response and feels it’s ‘fluffy’ they will think you either aren’t qualified, don’t know the answers, or don’t have appropriate experience. Or worse, all three!

19.  Ask for clarifications

Don’t be scared to ask for clarifications. These help to ensure that you fully understand what is being asked so you can best respond. Buyers get annoyed when you make assumptions or simply misunderstand the question. Don’t get any black marks (or zero marks!) for the sake of asking questions.

Some buyers will post all Q&A to all vendors and some will keep it private. Be sure you understand the buyer’s process before you ask something you wouldn’t want your competition to know!

20.  Submit on time

This sounds obvious but I have been there. Approaching midnight on a deadline is not fun. Weeks of work at jeopardy, let me tell you, that’s a stressful situation. Make sure you have plenty of time to submit and tackle any last-minute hitches such as procurement portals not playing ball!

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Post Submission

21.  Asking for feedback 

After submitting an RFP response you can always ask for feedback. This can provide valuable insight into areas that may need improvement and increase your chances of success.

This is where having a decision-maker as a champion will really help you out. If you can get some unofficial feedback on your proposition you may be able to strengthen your offer.

Usually, if the buyer wants you, they will find a way to make these things happen!

22.  RFP postmortem 

After a win or loss, a postmortem can help identify strengths and weaknesses in your RFP response process, allowing you to make necessary changes for future success. It won’t help you on any lost RFP but it should help for future ones and is a vital part of ongoing success.

23.  Make changes 

Making changes to your RFP response process based on feedback and postmortem analysis can demonstrate to leadership a proactive approach to improving your chances of success going forward.

Key Considerations For Successfully Winning More RFPs

Successfully winning more RFPs requires careful consideration and preparation. Some key considerations are:

  • Understand the customer’s needs
  • Develop a strong value proposition
  • Create a winning response team
  • Form meaningful relationships with decision-makers
  • Map out your best path to sale
  • Research competitors

Crafting a solution that meets the customer’s budget constraints and delivering it on time with high quality are essential components of successful bid submission. 

Finally, closely following all of the rules set forth in the RFP and executing an effective win strategy is also important for increasing your chances of success.

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Taking it to the Next Level: How To Become More Consistent

If you are responding to lots of RFPs, have a team that needs to collaborate, or are simply tired of the copy-and-paste function in Word, then proposal management software can really help you out.

With the proposal management software market set to grow by $4 billion by 2030, this might be the time to check it out and see what all the fuss is about. 

Proposal software enables you to hold central libraries of content, many different response templates, collaboration tools, tracking and approval workflows, and much more. It can greatly speed up your accuracy and response times so that you can respond to more RFPs to scale your business faster.

What is a RFP?

In simple terms, a RFP (request for proposal) is a request from a business to potential suppliers to present a solution to a problem they are trying to solve.

A RFP is an invitation sent by a business to potential vendors. Typically it outlines a set of requirements, inviting them to launch a formal bidding process. It will give the specifications and requirements of the project or task and provide expectations on deliverables.


What is the criterion for winning an RFP?

The criterion for winning an RFP is determined by the issuing organization and is typically based on factors such as the cost-effectiveness of the proposal, the technical merit of the solution presented, the vendor’s past performance and experience, and the ability to meet the specific requirements and goals outlined in the RFP document. 

The winning proposal is the one that best meets the evaluation criteria and offers the most value to the buying organization.

How do you stand out in an RFP?

To stand out in an RFP, you should focus on demonstrating your qualifications, providing clear and compelling evidence of your previous successes, and tailoring the proposal to address the client’s specific needs. 

Spend time researching the client’s organization and craft a customized response that speaks directly to them—show why they should choose you instead of the competition. 

Finally, show that you understand the details of the RFP by highlighting key points and emphasizing areas where your ability will add value.

How do you win an RFP bid?

To win an RFP bid, it is important to thoroughly understand the requirements outlined in the RFP document and tailor your proposal to meet those requirements in the most cost-effective and technically sound manner. 

Showcasing your relevant experience and demonstrating a strong track record of past performance can greatly improve your chances of winning a RFP.

Final Thoughts

It’s clear that an RFP process is stacked against you unless you take control of it. To win RFPs you need a solid process in place, not just for the response but before an RFP is released and once you have submitted it. 

Get these 21 essential steps right and you should limit any damage by ensuring you don’t do any of the things that lose RFPs. You should be in a much stronger position to succeed next time round. 

If your CRM data isn’t up to scratch then check out my Attention sales assistant review as having CRM data like this tool offers will give you all the meat you need for those pain points and win themes!

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