From The Archives Chapter 1 - Answering RFPs
Since starting nGen Works, we’ve received a lot of RFPs. Early on we answered quite a few of them, spending hours answering questions that didn’t always make sense.
A few of my favorites:
- How many websites have you built with more than 20 pages?
- List websites you’ve built that have 5 – 7 points of navigation.
- How much experience do you have with java-based roll-overs?
But I’m not here to poke fun. (OK, maybe a little.) I’m here to talk about the problem with RFPs themselves. Most RFPs are put together by a team at a company who don’t really know what they need to ask, so they ask a lot of questions. Evidently, there’s some comfort in quantity.
This means anyone who is going to answer the RFP will have to spend countless hours tracking down information and having others waste time reviewing the response before it goes back, where nothing happens for weeks. And if you’re lucky, they ask you to put together a presentation that will take more hours, still with no promise of being hired.
Before nGen, I worked on RFPs that took more than 40 hours to complete. Where did that time come from? From the clients who had already paid for our services.
So you have to choose. Either run around answering the wrong questions for people who don’t know you at the expense of the people who believe in you or respond politely to the people who have sent the RFP explaining to them that you would be happy to have lunch and discuss their questions, but putting together an official response would be a bad use of your time, which is dedicated to your clients.
Many clients, specifically government clients, don’t have a choice because of procedures and other nonsense. While I feel for them, that mentality will be there for the entire project, scrutinizing the work you do every step of the way. It’s just the nature of those beasties. And it’s rarely pleasant because they work in a bad environment and need a dog to kick. (Here puppy puppy.)
So, the next time you sit down and get ready to respond to an RFP, ask yourself this question: “How long is this going to take and what opportunities am I going to miss focusing on it?” You may be surprised what giving those hours to an existing client will do for you.
Who knows, you may even get some new business out of it.