Standout and win: Tips for tackling an RFP

A request for proposal (RFP) is a formal opportunity to throw your hat in the ring for a new project. But, as Tom Brown, consultant at Bladonmore finds, approaching it in the right way is critical to your success.

RFPs generally signal a time of stress for any team responding to them – no matter what sector you work in. The structure of your response will have a huge impact on how it lands. RFPs get passed through lots of hands, but not all parts of your response will matter to everyone. So, first up, make the document easy to navigate.

Good structure is all about giving the client confidence that you understand the brief, setting out your credentials, and directly answering the questions. For example, play back a summary of the brief early in your response, mirror its language, and use formatting techniques to make it easier for the reader to flick through and dip in and out of sections without losing the flow.


Make the most of headlines

Every slide should make a clear point – that’s obvious. But what isn’t obvious when you read some RFPs is what that point actually is. Good headlines make all the difference, especially when you need to convey a lot of information. A common mistake that we often see is headlines being used to label slides rather than tell a story. For example, ‘Summary of 2022 performance’, versus, ‘Standout performance driven by new operating model’. The first labels the slide content; the second lands the message. When reviewing your RFP, flick through the headlines – does the argument come through clearly? Do they string together to tell a story? If not, rethink them.


Be smart in visuals 

The adage ‘a picture says a thousand words’ might seem a cliché, but there’s truth in it. Infographics are often a good way of simplifying complex information or to show a process. But, too often, visuals are used as a dressing – drizzled over slides to ‘improve the look’. Far from clarifying your argument, it’s just distracting. So, be thoughtful about how and where you use visuals. Think about the way colour is used, too – it can help highlight connections between different sections of the document or group key themes together, but it can also create confusion if used haphazardly.


Showcase your personality

Your firm’s credentials are clearly important – but people buy people. So, does the RFP do a good enough job of bringing out the expertise, experience and personality of your team? In other words, will it leave the client thinking that you’d be an interesting and valuable addition to their network? Simply moving the bios further up the response is a start – but it’s not the only answer. Think about how to show more of your people and what they bring – this probably requires effort outside of the RFP, for example, getting team members more involved in thought leadership as a way to raise their profiles. It’s also closely linked to the next point…


Prepare to present

RFPs are usually submitted as standalone documents, but they’re often a precursor to a meeting with the client. The right preparation will help you to make the most of that opportunity. Firstly, delivering the content. The choreography of the meeting matters, from the way you present as a team through to handling questions, so take time to practise together. Also think about the deck you use in that meeting. The original RFP will likely be very detailed – not the ideal tool to present if you want people in the room to listen rather than read. Invest the time to create a stripped-down version for the meeting; this will help keep the focus on you – not the slides. You’ve already done the heavy lifting, so this shouldn’t be too time consuming and you can still use the original document as a handout.


Good luck with your next RFP and if you’d like to know more about the ways we can support you with the process, get in touch.


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Tom Brown

Senior Consultant

Tom produces a variety of strategic content, built around clear narrative and messaging.

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