Event Recap: Responding to RFPs

Whether we like it or not, the world of proposals is constantly changing as graphics capabilities evolve and reviewers hone in on what is most important to them. Since responding to Requests for Proposals (RFPs) is a huge part of our job as marketing professionals in the A/E/C industry, this constantly shifting environment is why there’s always a bit of mystery and research, perhaps even scrambling, to understand what owners want to see. Our Responding to RFPs panel, hosted by SMPS Oregon at the Sentinel Hotel on October 16, brought consultants and clients together to discuss proposal trends, preferences, and challenges.

Our panelists included:
  • Rick Cline, Professional Services Contract Manager | Port of Vancouver
  • Shelli Romero, Area Manager | ODOT
  • Casey Fergeson, Senior Project Engineer | City of Tualatin
  • Ed Trotter, Senior Project Manager | OHSU
During the first section of this event, these panelists responded to a series of questions aimed at capturing pertinent information to develop proposals and build relationships:
  • How can firms learn about upcoming work?
  • What is the best way to respond to certain proposal elements?
  • How can proposing teams be most effective during interviews and presentations?

In the second part of the discussion, attendees asked their own questions about the proposal process. These ranged from how to answer tricky questions about team availability (be honest and keep open communication a priority) to what the panelists most enjoy about reviewing proposals.


Other Notable Topics

Pet Peeves. A few humorous highlights shined light on the panelists’ perspectives with their thoughts on pet peeves. These annoyances ranged from using absolute language in proposals like “our team is exclusively comprised of experts,” or using too many buzzwords such as “collaborate,” “synergy” or “innovative.”

Proposal Language. Some of the best RFP practices noted were again focused on language—specifically how to use it succinctly, and when to not use it at all. The panelists seemed to agree that graphics in place of wordy text was preferable. They also suggested researching the client and their mission, and to ultimately pay attention to details. The panelists noted that proposals frequently make use of copy+paste, but it’s still of utmost importance that incorrect client or project names do not slip into the new proposal.

Interviews and Presentations. The panelists next tackled the question of interviews and team dynamics. Particularly of note were that panelists want to see team cohesion, respect, and voices from each member of the interviewing team. Presenting a solid front reflects well on the team, as does a smooth presentation with minimal fluff, but with precise and (buzzword alert) innovative ideas that address key concerns in the project approach.

Overall the panel unanimously agreed that if you do quality work and maintain good relationships with owners and representatives, then they will continue to award work to your business.

We’d like to give a huge thanks to our panelists for sharing their insights with us! SMPS Oregon appreciates the great turnout for this event and hopes to see many of the same faces at our upcoming Education event Advanced InDesign in January! Don’t forget to join us November 14th for The Rodney Building Tour + Happy Hour!

Special thanks to Cheryl McIntosh Photography for providing the event photos featured in this post.



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