Winning Contracts and Building Backlog: How Alaska's experts handle RFPs.

Author:Joyal, Brad

Securing a design or construction contract can be a complicated, high-pressure process for any company, no matter its size or reputation. With many companies vying for the same project, and every one of them determined to separate itself from the crowd to be the winning bidder, competition is fierce. So, it's vital to pay close attention to the project's Request for Proposal (RFP), which a project owner or developer issues to provide criteria for companies to respond to when trying to secure a potential project.

Before the RFP Is Issued

There are various strategies construction companies can use throughout the RFP process to stand out from the competition. It's important to recognize that RFP criteria differ for each client and project, and each proposal should be crafted to showcase a company's ability to meet the client's demands.

Before an RFP is released--or "hits the streets"--there are important steps a company can take to position itself to win a contract. Networking is a crucial component of business development, particularly for small or new companies trying to build their portfolios and bolster their firm experience to compete with larger, more-established companies that have resources devoted solely to responding to RFPs. Although every RFP varies, companies with experience securing contracts stress the importance of following similar methods for each proposal.

"We have an overall strategy that we try to use, and it really starts before the RFP is released," says Skip Bourgeois, vice president of marketing at Coffman Engineers. "In the best-case scenario, we'll know that a client is going to release an RFP around a general timeframe and we'll know what they are going to be looking for in an RFP. We'll look to position ourselves with the client so they know who we are, they know our capabilities, and they are expecting us to provide a proposal when the RFP comes out."

Bourgeois notes that it's essential to establish a relationship with the company or government agency prior to releasing the RFP because once the RFP is out, prospective companies are no longer able to reach out to the agency. "Once the RFP hits the streets, you can't talk to anybody on the client's side," says Bourgeois. "You want to do all of that positioning before the RFP is released."

Often companies are asked to respond to an RFP because of the relationship marketers have already established with the client, even if the company's portfolio isn't as impressive as the competition. That is why building an association...

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