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7 Tips for Nailing Your RFP Response (And Winning the Project)

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Make sure your RFP response is the best it can be. (Photo: Kirill Kedrinski)

Requests for proposals (RFPs) are common in the corporate and nonprofit worlds. When organizations need help with a project, they often write RFPs and send them out to get a wide range of proposals and bids.

Winning the project can be very competitive, which can make responding to an RFP a little intimidating—especially if you’ve never written a response to one before.

Here are seven tips to help you through the process.

1. Do Your Research

Before any writing project, it’s always important to understand your audience. It’s no different here.

An effective proposal requires that you understand the needs of the organization that issued the RFP. So you need to research both the organization and its industry. This will also give you a better perspective on the scope of the project.

“If your audience is not technologically savvy [for example], then the effort you put into pages of explanation … will be wasted,” explain Donald and Jill Treadwell in their book Public Relations Writing: Principles in Practice, who advocate “knowing your audience and writing to their level of experience and education.”

2. Be Concise

Put yourself in the shoes of the organization that wrote the RFP—its staff must read (and probably reread) hundreds of pages of proposals before making a decision.

They’ll appreciate it when you’re succinct and get to the point.

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3. Keep It Simple

You should also use clear and simple language. Don’t include a bunch of unnecessary jargon and buzzwords—they just make your proposal harder to read.

When it comes to jargon, less is usually more.

We understand that this can vary somewhat depending on the industry. So if you do use jargon, just make sure it’s common stuff that people reading your proposal will understand.

When in doubt, stick to plain words—this will make your proposal much easier to read.

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4. Explain How You’re Different

Why should they choose you instead of everyone else? You have to address this question in your proposal.

It’s usually best to differentiate on something other than price because you won’t even know if your bid is the lowest anyway. Choose something that’s related to quality and service that helps separate your organization from the crowd.

Just picking something is not enough, though—you must clearly articulate it and make it persuasive. You can do that by including data, examples, and anything else that backs up your claim.

Image of a quote that says, "When you're responding to an RFP, don't include a bunch of unnecessary jargon and buzzwords. They just make your proposal harder to read."

5. Stick to the Format

Most RFPs have a format outlined, so follow that as closely as possible. Now isn’t the time to get creative and put your own spin on it.

If the RFP didn’t outline a format for the response, then pick something that is simple and professional.

You don’t want the outline to get in the way of the overall message of your proposal. It should enhance the content, not hinder it.

6. Get Started as Soon as Possible

Start writing the proposal as early as possible. This ensures you have enough time to research and edit before the deadline.

Waiting until the last minute usually leads to a weak proposal. It also makes the entire process more stressful than it needs to be.

7. Proofread the Proposal

Nothing will kill a proposal faster than careless mistakes, such as misspelling the company’s name. It’s never a good idea to skip this step.

A first draft will almost always have some mistakes—and that’s OK, but you should fix them before you submit the proposal.

Ideally, the person who proofreads the proposal should not be the same person who wrote it. It’s too easy to miss your own mistakes during the editing phase. This can be another qualified person within your company or a professional proofreader with experience—and the latter is always best.

Here at Super Copy Editors, we’ve reviewed both RFPs and proposals, so we understand the entire process well. If you’re working on an RFP response and need a quick, professional proofread before you send it out, we would be delighted to help. Contact us now for a quick, free quote!

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Dave Baker

View posts by Dave Baker
Hi, I’m Dave Baker, founder and copy chief of Super Copy Editors. I have more than 25 years of professional proofreading and copy editing experience, including work for The Nation magazine, The New York Times, and The Times-Picayune of New Orleans, where I shared two staff Pulitzer Prizes. At Super Copy Editors, we’re passionate about helping agencies, marketing teams, and education companies refine and polish their text to give them confidence and ensure success. Learn more here.

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