Software Development RFP

Software Development Proposal – Should You Respond?

Brett MillerRequest for Proposal, RFP

A software development proposal or RFP (Request for Proposal) or RFQ (Request for Quote) is an opportunity for software development companies to approach and perhaps secure new business for their organization.  However, there is an underlying question that must first be addressed and that has to do with whether this particular RFP is the right one for your company, your company’s skill set, and your typical offerings.  In other words, somewhere early in the process of evaluating an RFP opportunity you need to decide if there is a strong enough fit for you to wisely invest the time necessary to come up with a thoughtful and engaging RFP Response.

Toward that end I am offering software development practitioners the following list of 8 bid/no-bid analysis principles as a set of tactical business strategies to help them achieve the next level of success in their business.  We have utilized these 8 principles over the years to greatly increase our close ratio and to ensure we only invest our time in the most appropriate opportunities given our web development background.  For your purposes let them be thought provoking and instrumental in determining if any given RFP is worth your investment in time and energy.

8 Effective Software Development Proposal Strategies for Success

1. Software Development Skill Set Alignment

This has to do with your technical skills, organizational background and your portfolio … comparative to the opportunity in question.   This is where you take the time to evaluate the RFP Statement of Work, match them to your experiential background, and express the advantages you bring to the table as a function of enhanced potential for  your client.  How beneficial would it be to have this project in your portfolio?  Remember to think about location as many companies will greatly favor a web development company who is local.

2. RFP Budget and Timeline

Hopefully the RFP gives you some guidelines on what the client is looking to invest in their project and when they want it done.  If you think it is a $50K project and they only want to pay $20K, or if they want it delivered in 60 days and your estimate twice that time, these are issues that need to be addressed.  Bear in mind that even if you convince the client you are more accurate on the cost/time ratios you will always be fighting an uphill battle.  Also don’t forget to address scheduled payouts (30 day net, 60 day net, etc.) and the clients credit/payment history.  We favor contracts where there is some payment up front and the rest based on specific deliverables and then project completion.

3. RFP Response Time

Will you have sufficient time to respond with something really thought provoking since that is what has the most potential for capturing their imagination and ultimately landing the work.  Avoid responding with a typified (and boring) template with a few minor customizations.  You need to truly address the functionality the client is requesting and present a detailed plan of how you are going to accomplish that.

*4. Conversations About Software Development: This is critical!

Is the client willing to commit personal time via the phone or in person to discuss what they are trying to accomplish, explain nuances, answer questions, and define parameters?  If not, we would advise you to pass on it because our experience has been these RFPs turn out to be a poor investment in time and rarely result in securing a project.  Even more important is establishing a rapport with the client that can be maintained throughout the RFP sales cycle (so that you are the leading vendor before they even start reading proposals).

5. Specific RFP Requirements. Do They Know What They Want?

Is the RFP Process, RFP Template, or project description specific enough so that you can adequately detail your proposal, propose options, and talk about how you are going to approach their project requirements?  Many times the RFP itself is in template form and doesn’t address every salient question you might need to be specific in your proposal.  It is important that they know what they want, but it may be equally important for you to be able to suggest alternatives they did not consider or did not know existed.  Remember, after all, you are the expert in what is possible.  All they may be considering is what they think they need.

6. RFP Response Differentiation

Securing a project is about differentiation.  It is about what and why the things you bring to the table offer a unique advantage over your competition. You must be specific in literally every conversation or exchange of ideas as to how your skills speak directly to their needs.  This need to be stressed from your first exchange of emails or your first phone conversation right up to, and including, the Executive Summary in your proposal.  Always be thinking, expressing, and maintaining a primary focus on “This is why you should go with us” … “This is why you should go with us”!

7. General Vibe

When you first read the Software Development RFP does it feel right, balanced, complete?  How about during that first email exchange or phone conversation?  Does the client seem flexible, easy to understand, clear in their needs?  What do your instincts tell you?  What will it be like to work with them? Your instinct should be your guide.  If you feel uncomfortable during the any of RFP process you need to seriously consider walk away.  My experience has been that my intuition about a project or a client is rarely wrong.  Avoid a difficult experience by bowing out now! 

*8. RFP Compliance Exceptions: This is critical!

What if you are unable to meet full RFP Compliance?  For example; the specified response time is only two days away and you just discovered the opportunity.  Are they flexible enough to still consider you?  Email them and be honest.  Tell them you don’t have enough time to respond and can they give you a few more days.  If they do this certainly opens the door for a conversation.  This is a good sign that they are accommodating and potentially didn’t get the response they expected (so you really have a good chance of landing the work).  Schedule a call with them to go through details and earn their trust!

The same concept applies if they are giving enough time for the project to be completed or if they are requesting a technologies that isn’t appropriate.

RFP Bid / No Bid Decision Time!

Time is a non renewable resource so it’s so important to use it as wisely as possible.  Responding to an RFP takes a solid amount of effort.  Adherence to these 8 principles will help you assure the highest and best use of your time, all while aligning you with the right web development opportunities that are the most appropriate for your software firm.