Undoubtedly, marketing specialists at architectural, engineering and construction businesses spend much of their time focusing on preparing RFP responses and submissions, especially for public sector work where there can be intense competition and seemingly rigid rules.
There is plenty of advice from specialists such as Matt Handal on how to prepare and manage the proposal process. But what does it look on the other side of the table?
Here, author Gary Coover looks at the story from the receiving end in his new book, Secrets of the Selection Committee.
In an interview with Handal, he says “I’ve served on probably 30-40 selection committees as a City Engineer and as a District Engineer for a large state special district, mostly for the selection of engineering consultants for large and small Capital Improvement Projects, either by SOQ or RFP.”
Other elements of the interview, reported in full here, include:
In your experience, how much influence could a single person have on the committee?
Quite a lot, especially if that person is the end-user customer, or if they are a technical committee member who knows the most about the project requirements, or if they have specific experience (good or bad) with one of the submitting firms.
In general, how much time would you reasonably spend reading each proposal?
First pass? Sometimes less than a minute, maybe even a matter of seconds. Flip, flip, flip – if nothing jumps out or grabs our attention, it goes in the reject pile. Same thing if we saw something (or someone) that didn’t meet the basic qualifications or we didn’t trust them or want to work with them.
If there was no clear winner, once the field got narrowed down to the top three or four, we would go a little deeper and spend some time studying the approach, the makeup of the team, and the résumé of the PM and key staff. This maybe took 5-10 minutes. But rest assured we didn’t have time to read every single word.
During you time on selection committees did you see any shifts or trends in the proposals you reviewed?
The major trend I noticed was that some firms were beginning to really lean forward and submit some very specific client-centric proposals as opposed to the standard off-the-shelf generic bs. Some even went so far as to show conceptual designs and renderings of the very project they were proposing on. Sure, it’s a huge expense and a big gamble for them, but they justified it since they really wanted to win (and often did).
Knowing what you know now, what’s the single biggest thing people can do to ensure their proposal has the best shot with a selection committee?
Make it easy for them to pick you as the winner by clearly and concisely demonstrating trust, value and performance in writing that is exceptionally readable.