Firms that do their homework in advance of the release of an RFP tend to have a better understanding of what the client wants, and therefore can pull together a more responsive (and often winning!) proposal. Start with getting to know the client:
What are the issues facing the client?
What are the underlying issues that the client may or may not be sharing with you?
Who are the constituents and stakeholders who have a vested interest in the work of the client?
What firms have done work with your client in this technical area? How has the work gone? Is there an incumbent?
To find out the answers to these important questions, start by establishing relationships with specific people at the client agency. Research and understand the client organization. Develop a basic level of trust with your client contacts. Go visit the client in person – they need consultants just as much as you need the work! Find out about upcoming projects. Don’t be afraid to ask the client who they recommend for your firm to team with if your firm cannot do all the work
Once you’ve identified the project(s) you want to go after, meet with the client and make it clear why your firm is the best choice (in advance of the release of the RFP or you may be disqualified). Leave the client with clear strengths for your firm and differentiators that set you apart from the competition.
One important element to consider – are you talking to a decision-maker for this project? Or someone who will make a recommendation? Are there other people in the client organization or other agencies involved in the project who could give you an additional perspective? Do some research and make sure you’ve gotten a wide range of perspectives on the project(s).
Establishing relationships, researching the client organization and history with consultants, understanding the important elements of the project – all of these actions can be taken prior to the release of the RFP, and sets your firm up as a contender. Don’t wait until the RFP comes out to start your research……..you could be too late!