Since the end of the KGB, few three letter combinations have evoked as many negative feelings as RFP. No agency I know enjoys going through an RFP process, and most customers dislike the outcome it produces. The process is broken and outdated for both parties. It needs to be replaced.
An RFP is ostensibly implemented in order to protect buyers who aren’t knowledgeable about which vendors are best suited to solve a specific need. Many times, they are required for government “fair bidding” requirements. The goal in these cases is to get an “apples to apples” comparison and remove biases from the procurer.
The reality, however, is a different story.
Here is where the RFP process fails for both parties.
- Has to predict needs for a project even if they’re not an expert in that field
- Has to understand the responses to technical specifications and how the firm best fit their needs
- Has to match up different response language to ensure comparing “apples to apples”
- Has to go through a lengthy process designed to get a bid that is low priced as well as confident in the firm’s ability to perform up to specifications
- Has to interpret a document of needs with minimal context – often without a chance to have a real conversation with the Requester – which may or may not actually outline the root problems to be solved
- Has to provide a verbose response to prove their ability and reliability without actually building a working relationship
- Has to bid low enough to be noticed and hope vendor can then manage the project to that budget or get change requests approved
Once all the above hoops are jumped through, there is still no guarantee of good work or good fit between the vendor and client – WHICH IS THE WHOLE FREAKIN’ POINT OF AN RFP!
So how do you find a trustworthy vendor for your next project? Ask around, make a few calls, and get a feel for who you trust and who you fit with. Ultimately, you have to hope it all works out in the end.
At Vuurr, we have found the only way to be successful in solving problems for a client is to
work from a place of mutual understanding, starting where the pain points are and using our expertise to find solutions. Without taking the time to properly diagnose our client’s needs, we may be wasting each other’s time, money and effort on superficial quick fixes.
So whatever your next project entails, make sure you’re using resources that actually help you. Friends don’t let friends use RFPs.
I once said that an RFP is like picking a wedding cake based on shoving the whole thing into a small tupperware container and then still choosing based on looks.
That said, Win Without Pitching Manifesto is one of those few business books that I read specifically about the RFP process that helped frame my mind around this whole horrible topic really well. Not the best title but a really good read.
I really haven’t found any good way to combat the horribleness of the RFP process, except for being direct, being honest, and being awesome.