David RD Gratton

Tag: business development

Making Good RFP Response Decisions

January 23, 2007

Greg at Airbag, wrote this blog post recently regarding some sad RFPs he's received recently. He notes that some RFPs

[..] come in the form of a well thought-out, concise plan while others are birthed from a horrible Microsoft Word template. And then there are my personal favorites which tell you absolutely nothing of the scope of work but request a cost estimate anyway. These asshats are the Ike Turners of the bunch: "I don't wanna baby, but I'll beat the love right out of you if I have to."

The 40 odd comments are good for a laugh, but the post brings to light a growing issue regarding our role as developers/vendors in the RFP process. I know many companies who have been burned by RFPs, and have sworn them off for good. However, I think this is short sighted. In 2006 my company Donat Group earned close to 60% of its revenue from RFPs. We won 5 of the 7 we submitted. In 2003, we won 2 of 8 and almost swore off the whole RFP process, too. The improved success ratio was a direct result of our company becoming very focused on what we will and will not bid on.

Here are some criteria we have at our offices for answering RFPs:

  • The RFP must have defined deliverables with a clear marking/grading criteria for assessing a vendor. It must also detail the time line and process for assessing bids. If it doesn't have these - throw the RFP in the trash can and move on.
  • Read every RFP that comes in and examine the criteria. Then detail why your competition is more likely to win it than you are. If your list is 3 - 4 points - think long and hard about responding. If it is 5 points or more - throw it in the trash can and move on.
  • The RFP must fall squarely within your company's vision statement. No exceptions. If you do not have a vision for your company. Throw the RFP in the trash can and move on.
  • The RFP must be public if there is no budget attached. A public tender has legal ramifications for the issuer, which should help with the integrity of the process. We use MERX, BC Bid, and Sigma. Even then be very wary of all RFPs without a budget.
  • If you get a private unsolicited RFP with or without a budget, throw it in the trash can and move on. Ok, call them up first and ask them why they sent you the RFP and what the exact budget is. If they say that they found you "on the web" and/or anything but an actual number for the budget, throw it in the trash can and move on.
  • Answer the RFP criteria in 10 to 12 pages. Appendixes and detailed work plans excepted. If you can't be succinct, chances are you don't really know what the RFP is asking.
  • You must have 3 references within the last 12-18 months for work of a similar scope.
  • You should be able to offer something "extra" that will be of value to this project outside of the RFP requirements. This extra must be unique to you.

By focusing on RFPs that suit this criteria you not only keep your company focused on responding to calls where you have a high probability of winning, but you also keep dodgy RFPs like those noted by Greg from receiving any kind of professional response.

One last thing. Unsolicited requests for quotes are not RFPs. Don't treat them as such. They are leads. Pick up the phone and make a sales call.

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