Less is More: Successful Request for Proposals (RFPs) Yearn for Detail and Polish


“One person looked at our RFP and was firmly against signing with us, but I guess somebody else in the office liked what we did and eventually overruled him. They were originally only going to short-list three companies, but they actually short-listed four – we snuck in the running.

At the end of it, we got the job. So I called to do our usual debrief and I got the whole story about us being rejected at first. The person said he didn’t like that all our websites on our showcase were blue… I was surprised, I saw this as a very small thing. It goes to show how anything can be the reason you get rejected.”

These are the smiling words of Senior Director Padraig O’Shea, who for over six years has called West Corporation his pride and joy. On that day he so acutely recalls, O’Shea learned something he would never forget – every little detail matters in client acquisition.

“Needless to say, we don’t use those websites together in our RFPs anymore.”

O’Shea has many client wins under his belt at West Corporation, but not before getting a real handle on the art of the RFP. It took nearly four years of trial and error to get to where he stands today. O’Shea’s first advice is to know the process in and out.

What is an RFP and How Does It Work?

So pretend for a second that you are extremely hungry. The grocery store is closed and there is no food in the house – it’s time to order take out. Thank goodness you have been saving those flyers you got last Thursday in the mail. Pizza Hut, Harvey’s, KFC, that new Indian place down the road – each business personally sent you a detailed document of what they can offer (the food you so desperately want). This time, it’s a very welcome form of solicitation.

These flyers are essentially RFPs, and just like the flyers, each RFP is considered among the others before one is finally chosen. The RFP is an extremely important part of sales today. Often times, it can be that all important first impression – it’s not to be taken lightly, says O’Shea.

As such, O’Shea offers his advice in writing the successful first impression:

More People, Less RFPs, More detail – It Works

“Generally what we do is we look at how many RFPs we source per month and try to increase that number. We also make sure we have the appropriate staff to write as many writeable RFPs as we source.”

“There was a time when we tried to send a high volume of RFPs with very limited staff. We waited to see how often we got selected or short-listed. Eventually we doubled our staff and wrote half as many RFPs per person. We wanted to spend a lot of time making sure each RFP was written extremely well. We found that through this we did a lot better with positive response.”

Get the Scoop

“People are stringent and they very easily disqualify you. It’s best to make sure you never get disqualified – that will send you to the short list much more often.”

“And anytime we are not short-listed, we always follow up with a call and find out why – sometimes you can be given another chance. In any case, you can improve for next time.”

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