How to Sell to Schools: A Brief Guide to Responding to School RFPs

request for proposal/school rfps

A report from the Education Industry Association has identified that there is a disconnect between providers and educators. Only 6% of providers are satisfied with the procurement process. There’s never been a better time for providers to master the process.

Responding to school RFPs requires a gentle touch and a whole lot of studying. Read on to learn how to write a successful school RFP response.

School RFPs or Request for Proposals

Requests for proposals or RFPs are used to attract bids from potential suppliers. They are used by all types of organizations including government institutions such as schools. The RFP specifies what the buyer is wanting to procure including the criteria they will use to evaluate bids.

RFPs are used because they provide the buyer with several benefits. It simplifies the process of searching for suppliers and securing competitive bids. The buyer can then compare bids and select one.

Using an RFP process puts the buyer in a powerful negotiating position. It doesn’t have to be one-way traffic. Sellers can also use the RFP process to win valuable business with good research, preparation, and commercial acumen.

Filter RFPs

It’s tempting to regard all RFPs as opportunities. If you don’t respond, you can’t win the contract. This is a formula for being very busy submitting RFPs but not necessarily one for winning commercially lucrative business.

Establish some criteria for selecting RFPs that are worth pursuing. Remember the cost of sale is not just the cost of preparing the bid you win. It’s the cost of preparing all the bids you didn’t win too.

Consider awarding points to RFPs based on the following criteria. More points mean you are more likely to put effort into the RFP.

  • You know the school district or the school well
  • You’ve done business with them before
  • You’ve won bids to similar districts before
  • You’ve already got a relationship with them by helping them with their initial research

Put your bidding effort where it is most likely to bear fruit.

Research the RFP Guidelines

Find out as much as you can about the districts own guidelines for RFPs. They may share such information in the public forum. If it’s not published than ask for it.

This approach for information may be a way of establishing some communication even though the RFP process does not allow for communication. Establishing a relationship of sorts may be helpful later.

Follow the guidance but only to a point. If the guidance suggests all questions have to be in writing, test the boundaries. It’s worth trying to get a one-to-one conversation and sometimes sellers don’t follow their own rules.

Check the Detail

Being thorough in the preparation of your response will reap rewards. Make sure you are responding to all the requirements set out in the RFP and any guidelines. Having your bid rejected at the buyer’s first stage of evaluation simply because you’ve missed some of the criteria is unprofessional.

Read the RFP several times. Read your bid several times and score it against the criteria in the RFP as if you were the buyer.

Be Competitive

The people involved in selecting a bidder will be looking at several bids. They will compare and contrast the bids. Any bids that don’t demonstrate a thorough understanding of the customer and the industry will stand out as poor and be rejected.

Know your competitors and decide how you will stand out from them. It may not be all about price. Make your unique selling proposition clear in your executive summary.

Make it Easy for Them

Don’t give the buyer excuses to reject your proposal. Proofread proposals and check them against the school RFPs. Submit them on time and you’ll increase your success rate.

Learn more about the government contracting process.

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