Lesson 16: What Do Proposal Reviewers Look For in an RFP Response?

When working on a new RFP response, it can be challenging to determine what to prioritize and when. Luckily, we have heard from contracting officers and proposal reviewers to learn what we should focus on when writing a proposal.

We recently attended CMS Industry day and viewed a presentation titled “In the mind of a CO.” During this presentation, professional contracting officers discussed what they look for in a proposal. They offered tips to make your submission stand out in the crowd. Using our experience as proposal professionals and information gleaned from the presentation, we’ve compiled a list of the top three things that proposal reviewers look for when reading a proposal.

Prioritize priorities.

In acquisition, compliance is king. You may want to skip repetitive or seemingly unimportant sections of the RFP to prioritize your selling points. However, this can result in immediate expulsion from the acquisition process.

The RFP requirements are requirements for a reason. Firstly, the reviewers need all of the critical requested information (e.g. past performance, insurance, pricing.) Secondly, whether a company prioritizes compliance or not can demonstrate their priorities during the actual project.

Concision, sticking to page limits, and answering all of the RFP’s questions show that you respect your reviewer’s wants, needs, and time.

Don’t forget the “how.”

It is vital to catch a reviewer’s attention to set yourself up for a win. To do so, you must demonstrate what, when, why, where, and how. It is not enough to restate the statement of work and say you can complete the project at the time and place specified by the RFP.

Build on the required baseline and explain your process. Add discriminators and differentiators when necessary. Demonstrate how you have previously been successful with other projects of this scope or size. Remember to mention roadblocks you encountered and how your team overcame them.

Going beyond stating your capability and demonstrating your ability to complete the project and mitigate risk will intrigue your readers and assure them of your competence.

Keep It Relevant

When referencing past projects and experiences, stick to examples related to the RFP’s scope, size, and clientele. Reviewers want to know that whichever company they choose will complete the project in their expected timeframe.

However, you may find that you do not have experience with projects of similar scope, size, or clientele. In this case, be sure to highlight where connections between the projects lie. Furthermore, explain how your experience will inform your successful completion of the new project.

Source: CMS Industry Day “Embracing Change: Adapting for the Future,” “In the Mind of a CO.”

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Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

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