A tangled mess

Dealing with Bad RFPs – Part 1

Sometimes, proposal writers just have to work with bad RFPs.

Requests from owner agencies that don’t make sense, that contradict themselves, that ask for way more and way different information than most proposals do.

And sometimes, owner agencies don’t make good use of the Q&A process to address these kinds of problems in a meaningful way. Occasionally, rather than redline and revise troublesome portions of an RFP, some owner agencies dig in their heels and stand by their confusing requests without much clarification (or sometimes their responses to questions serve only to add more layers of unnecessary complexity!).

That’s not to blame owner agencies, though. Just like proposal coordinators, they work under budget and time constraints, too. In a perfect world, owner agencies would have the time and money to conduct thorough reviews of their RFP to catch inconsistencies and clear up ambiguities before proposers even have to ask questions about them. Very few owners have this luxury!

As proposal writers and marketing coordinators, we also have a limited amount of time to turn out a responsive, compliant proposal, no matter how confusing or difficult an RFP is. Let’s look at some strategies for writing solid proposals even with a bad RFP.

1) Discuss concerns internally first.

At the kickoff meeting, work with your team to generate a list of questions, inconsistencies and concerns about the RFP. Proposal writers’ questions will be more about the proposal submittal, while technical team members may have questions about the contract, the scope, the schedule or other elements related to the project.

While generating your list, work together to determine answers to your questions without involving the owner agency. Sometimes cross-referencing other sections of an RFP can help answer questions, and sometimes the firm’s history with the agency will light the way forward.

Check out Part 2 here!