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In our most recent cycle of proposal writing, we've come across a particularly diverse style of Requests For Proposals. These "RFP" documents are issued by companies after a painstaking writing effort with the goal of finding the perfect business partner for the project. Rarely does that work nicely.Obviously RFPs are useless and you should just call us. *sigh*
Snap back to reality…
On the client side some of the common struggles with RFP writing are trying to:
The companies that are writing a proposal have some common struggles too:
Hands down, the best RFP we could possibly receive would be:
Yes, that's it.
And yes, there's lots more to figure out, but this approach will:
Yes, that would a great help to both of us.
Most projects can be done with different levels of engagement and that has a dramatic impact on cost. We recently won some work with a new client who told us that the highest bid they saw for the work was 10 times higher than the lowest bid. How can that possibly happen!? In this case, the lowest bidder was going to use an existing template and complete the project without any strategy. The highest bidder was going to do intense research, prototyping, design and development.
When you share your budget, the proposals will all come back with the same cost and you now have an improved ability to compare value.
If you don't know how much you should spend on what you're asking for, do some research first. Get an idea of the typical price range for what you need (ask other business partners, friends and family). Even supplying a budget number that doesn't match what you expect to spend will result in proposals that you can compare. You're under no obligation to actually spend the budget you specify in your RFP.
When we know what your budget is we can craft a proposal that maximizes the value that we can provide.
Now you can take advantage of the time you saved when you issued a simpler RFP. Invest that time in conversation with the vendors that provided the best proposals.
The best way to evaluate whether business partners are a good fit for each other is through conversation. A written proposal is one thing, but the most informative part of the RFP process is the discussion about the project.
Through the questions you hear and the conversations you have at this point you will learn more about what you need and what is possible. Most likely you will even come up with an innovative idea that otherwise would have never been part of the original RFP.
After the conversations with the short list of vendors you should be able to pick a winner. Depending on the size of the project it is not uncommon to firm up the scope, expectations and budget by having some more in-depth meetings with the prospective vendor before you ink the deal.
I'd be interested to hear if anyone has other tips or perspectives on this too.