It’s always tempting to respond to any Request for Proposal (RFP) you receive. After all, the project is neatly described, desired outcomes are clear, and the consultant process is objective.
Responding to an RFP that comes in over the transom can be a costly proposition that results in a nice proposal but no project. Before investing your precious resources in responding to the RFP, ask yourself a few questions:
Did you receive the RFP because you have an existing relationship with the client? If not, why would the client seek you out?
If the RFP is from an unknown client, your chances of winning the project are very low, although many consultants could probably point to an exception to that rule.
Some consultants are simply added to a list of “contenders” with little hope of winning the project. Don’t squander your valuable time competing in a beauty contest you have little hope of winning.
What Will It Cost?
Over the last several years, more consulting selection processes are being run by procurement managers, not the actual client buyer. Having an intermediary between you and the buyer raises the cost of RFP compliance, reduces the quality of your response, and slows the selection process—sometimes to a crawl.
There’s also no evidence suggesting that the process results in a better decision for the client.
Create an estimate of your out-of-pocket expenses, time, and the lost-opportunity costs of responding to the RFP. When you use these costs to calculate a project ROI, the results can be eye-opening. Some RFP responses result in a win, but an unprofitable project.
If You Respond
Some RFPs are tailor-made for the recipient. If so, work with the client to make it a success by supporting the buying process as it’s been established. Comply with all of the terms of the RFP, and don’t use boilerplate for any part of it. Craft a customized response every time.
Some industries, like the public sector, rely on RFPs as a standard method of buying professional services. Others use RFPs less frequently. You may find that responding to an RFP is like fishing without bait.