The Anatomy of an RFP


The RFP As An Organism

A small corner office stands empty. The clock marks long hours in the foreground. On a desk, a proposal manager leaves the stacks of pages of request for proposal (RFP). To be exact, there are 1,427 pages, each section fixed by Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) adding hoops of compliance. There are lines upon lines of words designed to drive up competition among the bidders. The US government is the largest buyer in the world. Yet, the purchasing power leaves the proposal manager alone to face a complex document with a lot of information and stress.

For proposal management to be made easy, a creative glance at an RFP can make a simple analogy to the human body.

RFP Anatomy

Much like in an organism, there are certain functions that are vital to survival. Likewise, in an RFP, sections C, L, M when done well increase the probability of a proposal being accepted. Given that 84% of organizations still use a manual process to manage RFP responses and 28% rely on spreadsheets, the RFP process becomes daunting like a body pushed to exhaustion. The secret to a better RFP process? A transformation to RFP automation. The time the proposal manager spent reviewing those 1,427 pages could be cut by 98.2%, freeing extra minutes and hours for the weekend. Research has shown that 16% of teams use RFP digitization to instantly improve proposal management.

Executive Function Of Section C

The executive function of the RFP is Section C, the description/specification/statement of work. In this section, the proposal manager will find what the agency wants from the contract, how you plan to fulfill the contract (labor and supplies). It also touches on the proposal’s choice of materials and value proposition of the bidder. Logical reasoning and attention to details are found in Section C as it relates to labor conditions, security clearances and specifications for the contract. The statement of work is the brains of the operation: what you will do, how you will do it, and how the government wants you to do it.

The Lens Of Section L

The government is not immune to visually stimulating proposal responses. When it comes to Section L, the eyes of the RFP, appearances make a difference. Section L has rigid requirements about submitted proposals. Section L details include font and formatting, organization of the material, and proposal delivery. A deviation from Section L could cost the bidder the contract. Even the best proposal if poorly visually presented can be rejected due to the aesthetic specifications of Section L.  

Gut Feeling Of Section M

Section M is the evaluation factors for award. It outlines the main factors that will be considered for an award. As part of the RFP anatomy, section M can be likened to a gut feeling. It takes the requirements of Section C and compares it against the proposal. For some inexperienced companies, there is a big gap between where business is and where the company wants it to be. Asking the company some critical questions about the proposal process can improve the quality of the bid. For example, “Do we have good odds of winning?” or “Can we really compete?” An intuitive assessment by looking at the requirements of the RFP and checking in with your company can increase your win rates in the long run.

The RFP is a complex and nuanced organism much like the human body. A look at the anatomy of the RFP reveals its vulnerabilities to human error and need for digitization.

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