Is the juice worth the squeeze?

Sometimes the best deal is no deal.
In these difficult economic times, it would be easy to see an RFP as a great opportunity to add desperately needed revenues.  That’s not always true.  I advise clients to ask themselves a few key questions before they commit the resources (and the distraction) to respond to an RFP.  Among those questions:
  • Is this opportunity a good fit for us from a strategic point of view (e.g.., does it open new markets, keep a competitor out, better serve a key customer)?
  • Is the incumbent participating?  If not, why not?
  • What’s the client’s financial situation?  And the corollary to that one, is this a client we would be proud to be associated with?
  • Did we influence the RFP specifications?  If we didn’t, who did?  And did that person or organization insert specifications that make it a bad deal for us?
  • What is their budget?  Why are they issuing an RFP?
  • Do we understand the decision process? If so, are we in a good position?
  • Is the client really looking for a new partner or is this a way for them to get some free consulting/fresh ideas that they will turn over to the “winner?”
  • Is this a proposal that can be won with a strong value proposition or is the decision going to be made on the basis of money?  And do you care?

In many cases, the consultant driving the RFP or the company itself (if it is working without a consultant) may put something in the document that says you can’t ask questions or get additional information (or that you have to go through the consultant).  Your goal in those situations should be to change the ground rules and find out all you can about this opportunity.  In a future blog, I’ll talk about ways you can do that and still get the business.

If you want it.

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  1. 10/23/2009 at 12:17 pm

    I have published an article discussing RFPs, and how they should be done: http://www.pmhut.com/there-is-no-such-thing-as-a-perfect-rfp-request-for-proposal . Hope you’ll read it when you get the chance.

    • 11/04/2009 at 9:21 am

      Natasha, nice job on this. Great advice for the “other side” on how to manage their RFPs. Thanks for sharing.

      — Peter

  2. 10/24/2009 at 8:32 am

    Could not agree more! We waste so much time with RFP’s, some of which are regurgitated, plagiarized crap. Actually, I think they are getting worse and corporate America is more interested in the process rather than the results. It is all about “protect your ass” and not about getting the job done for a fair price. Most do not even know how to ask for the services they need (or think they need). Out of say 25 pages, there may be one with info we see as relevant and rest is language designed to protect the client and consultant from taking any responsibility or spending additional money. Here is my real dilemma: When you comment in regard to the parts you do not agree with, you become the “troublemaker” who is difficult to do business with. How to cope with that? Win the bid by putting in a low price and then qualifying later (Trojan horse strategy)? A process that should be designed to simplify, does quite the opposite and the people who are on the agenda win anyway. When did sales become an exercise in risk assessment? The questions become: how much money will I not lose rather than how much can we make? How much time will be wasted chasing this?

    We qualify everything now and will not respond unless we have spoken with an end user or the third party is someone we trust.

    • 11/04/2009 at 9:25 am

      Bob — That’s great advice. We use to “joke” that the only page the client really cared about was the offer page — that they’d tear it off and use the rest of the response as justification for taking the best deal for them. My view is that you’re doing yourself a disservice by not raising questions and hoping it all works out if you get the business. If I’m viewed as a “troublemaker” for asking questions, that’s probably not a company I want to do business with in the first place. Hence, my title: Is the juice (the revenue) worth the squeeze (the headaches).

      — Peter

  3. Dorothy Stubblebine
    10/28/2009 at 10:26 am

    Peter, Love the tag line – “Is the juice worth the squeeze”? Caught my attention and I bet many others. Good article.

  4. 11/04/2009 at 9:27 am

    Dorothy — Thanks for taking the time to post this comment, which reminds me how important it is to take the time to write a compelling headline. Writing a blog is not unlike the proverbial tree falling in the woods. If nobody reads it, did you ever really write it? Thanks.

    — Peter

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