Contrary to popular belief, RFP acquisition isnt the first step in the sales process, it is the last. What I mean is, as soon as we see one, that prospect is no longer a prospect and we let them go and move on to the next one. The reason for this is that the RFP is essentially a bad thing, for both the vendor and the client.
Why do RFPs exist?
RFPs exist because some client somewhere thought that a well thought out set of defined requirements and detailed, appropriate questions, sent to an intently chosen and finite group of qualified candidates, would be a good way to get the vendor selection process started. Doesnt sound all that ridiculous, right? Well, actually, yes, that doesnt sound so bad. The problem is that the current state of the RFP is a far cry from that initial concept in everything but name. Unfortunately, Ive got a perfect example to share.
An example of a very bad RFP
We recently received an RFP from a potential client that came highly recommended. I winced when the vile term was spoken, and I would normally flat out refuse receipt, but hey, this candidate was highly recommended, so I acquiesced.
What I received was actually funny, or at least that is how I decided to process it. This RFP was a 140 question deep interrogation, which literally would have taken us days to answer sufficiently. Of course, I didnt even start to… well, OK, I did start to, (please dont tell Blair) but I caught myself before things got too out of hand. I decided instead to give my suspicions a fair voice and call the client to ask about some of these questions. When I asked them how much they really cared about clustered bundling of redundant serves with RunTime architecture for real time content transformation, I was met by more than a little silence – score 1 for suspicions. I then, of course, had to ask who exactly penned this grand piece of work, or should I say sentence of work, and I was told that it was created by multiple authors based on an acquired RFP template.
This is Exhibit A, the sole exhibit, actually, in my case against the RFP. The ever-present RFP template is THE reason RFPs are a completely failed concept, devoid of all respect and meaning in the meaningful marketplace. The RFP template takes away the only merits the RFP ever had. It necessitates the asking of meaningless questions, questions the prospect doesnt even understand, and questions that will no doubt lead the vendor on an entirely futile exercise. The saddest part is that this is not the worst of it.
Why RFPs are a disservice to all involved
RFPs hurt the client because they encourage them to compare vendors based on generic questions that often times have little to do with the needs of the client or the unique benefits of the particular vendor. They hurt the vendor basically for the same reason: they force a potentially highly specialized, expert vendor to fit into a generic mold which will force them into a non-competitive forum.
I could go on, but I think my point has been made. In summary, RFPs waste everyones time, and it is our belief that no one should honor them. And of course, the obligatory end of blog question: What percentage of RFPs do you convert into projects?