Business development, especially in Canada, has traditionally been about making the right connections and speaking with the right people. But, those times are changing. With the increasing need for transparency and process within organizations, more businesses are turning to RFPs as a way to recruit their service providers and purchase products.
The days of the old boys’ club are fizzling out. And this means your business now has the opportunity to prove its value on a level playing field. With each business asked the same questions, your business’ success is determined by your ability to respond in a compelling and strategic manner to the contracting party’s needs.
RFPs also offer the opportunity for partnerships. See a fantastic opportunity to respond to but you can only complete 25% of the requirements? Look for another business who offers everything else and submit a joint bid. Your combined skill sets and willingness to partner may offer a solution that your potential client had not considered before.
We spoke to Doretta Pintaric of Market Ink Consulting, who offer proposal development services and present the Earn More Business: Create Winning Proposals seminar at Small Business BC, what her five top tips are for making the most of an RFP bid opportunity. Here’s what she had to say:
1. Register Your Business with the Government of Canada’s Service Database
The Government of Canada’s SELECT database is a list of construction, architectural, engineering and maintenance companies that are invited to bid on property service opportunities that have a value of up to $80,400 for consulting services and $100,000 for construction services.
The Federal government also has MERX, which lists opportunities for both Canadian public sector agencies and corporations and US federal, state and local opportunities.
*To find out more about these databases and if your business is eligible, register for Small Business BC’s free Doing Business with the Government of Canada seminar.
2. Register Your Business with the Government of British Columbia’s Service Databases
It’s not just the Government of Canada who can offer you and opportunity to work with them. Both BC and Alberta have their own provincial database of service providers that small businesses can bid for.
The first is BC Bid, where public sector organizations, including cities, school boards, health authorities and Crown corporations can advertise for a wide range of goods and services.
The second is the Alberta Purchasing Connection, where government entities, including local, district and municipal governments, school boards, publicly funded academic organizations, health and social service organizations and corporations owned or controlled by one of these entities can advertise purchasing opportunities.
Both of these databases are free to register for and offer a world of opportunity.
3. Relax. It’s Just a Questionnaire
If you feel that your business is qualified for a project after reading the RFP and its requirements, don’t let the process to apply intimidate you. There will be questions about your expertise and your business that you know inside and out, and others that will need a bit more thought. Take a breath, write bullets about what you want to include and then once you are happy write your full proposal.
4. Read the RFP Thoroughly
Make sure you read each question thoroughly and understand the points that they want you to cover. Companies can sometimes get so overwhelmed or wrapped up in telling their story that they lose sight of what they need to answer.
5. Ask for Feedback
Whether you win the contract or not, ask for feedback on your submission. What you learn will help you shape and improve future submissions.
Remember: the biggest question that you need to answer in all your proposals is why you’re the right choice for the project. If you can do that, you’re halfway to a winning proposal.