Get Noticed with Tailored RFPs

An RFP is a question that asks, “Will you be able to agree to an agreement that has terms like this?” It’s not a marriage. It’s a first date. And just like an actual first date, you have one chance to make a good first impression. If you show up and talk only about yourself, you’re not going to get to the altar.

An RFP is an opportunity to demonstrate that you have a client service mindset. A generic RFP that isn’t tailored to reflect knowledge of the prospect’s needs doesn’t meet that requirement. It won’t get attention.

Customization needs to be threaded throughout the RFP, starting with the executive summary. A strong executive summary begins by stating the problem the prospect needs to solve. Define the problem in a strategic manner; for instance, if the RFP seeks a specific expertise and you understand the reason why, talk about the reason before you lay out your qualifications. For instance, begin with a brief overview of the potential business benefits and risks, competitive landscape, and market drivers associated with the prospect’s need. It doesn’t matter that they already know this information; you’re showing them that you understand their goals and challenges and that you’re ready and able to help them succeed.

With the groundwork laid, you can present your value proposition. Value propositions are a marketing asset that everyone writes, and few write well. Most end up being a short description of a firm’s services, but that approach leaves out the value part of the proposition. A value proposition isn’t about you; it’s about how a client will benefit from a relationship with you. Since value is determined by the buyer, not the seller, your value proposition needs to answer three questions from a customer perspective, ideally in a single sentence, just like a thesis statement:

  • What you do
  • Who you do it for
  • How/why you do it better than anyone else

At this point, your prospect has already started to make a decision about you. It may be good, or it may be bad. While you can still change their minds, the reality is that they’ll read the next part of the summary with either a jaundiced eye or an open mind. A strong start will increase your chances of success, so polish the executive summary until you’re proud of it.

As you present your solution, you have a chance to build more confidence. Confidence is founded on trust, and trust is gained through transparency. So be specific in describing how you intend to help the prospect solve their problem. Although your readers will be lawyers, avoid legalese at this point. You’re telling a story to help the prospect picture the good things that will happen if they bring you onboard.

And just as if you were writing a novel, use lively examples to support your points. Illustrate ideas with specific examples of your experience that concisely demonstrate how your actions led to successful results. The point of these examples is, of course, to provide evidence of your abilities. But in the case of an RFP from a company where you don’t have a referral, these examples can also serve as social proof; you served other companies well, so you can probably serve the prospect well, too. Try to use a range of examples; some may show your abilities in the area of expertise in which help is sought, and others may show that you’re familiar with working with companies that share a market, structure, or other commonality with the prospect. The idea is to show the many ways in which your firm is a good fit.

Close with a promise that will resonate with the prospect. As you gathered intelligence, you should have figured out what the company’s hot buttons are; they may be based on a fear of business threats, pride in a certain culture, or commitment to social welfare. Tie one or more of those buttons to your strengths and build a promise around that. If the prospect recognizes their driving concerns in your promise, they will feel a rapport with you that will be a powerful factor in their final decision.

For more tips on creating reputation driven RFPs, download the ebook here.



Qorus Software is a leading global provider of proposal and content management solutions for firms looking to simplify the way they do business. In a world that is growing increasingly complex, and with clients who continue to demand more for less, we believe that legal software should be intuitive and easy to use. Which is why our solutions are built on well-known Microsoft tools like Word and PowerPoint. They're designed to be used across all departments of your firm, helping produce better proposals, RFP responses, contracts and reports – while decreasing non-billable time. Qorus is a proud Microsoft partner, Primary Competency (Application Development) and Silver Cloud Competency. Click here for more information.

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