All I can think as I read through this Inc.com Article on “Why not to respond to RFP’s” is…
“Man, I really hope our competition is reading this and decides to follow their advice, ha!”
Although the author makes a couple of good points about the negatives of responding… RFP’s are so engrained in the culture of corporate and government procurement that I think responding will always be a large piece to the success of any business development team.
However, I do think we are seeing a permanent shift in the scope of RFP’s, especially on the government-side. They are moving more toward pre-approving smart and qualified vendors that provide long-term strategic guidance in an “on-call services” manner, rather than releasing RFP’s for each individual project.
Obviously this isn’t new, as the practice of Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts have been used to pre-qualify vendors for quite sometime. But, what is new is the broadening scope that these on-call vendors can provide once approved as a vendor.
For example, the company I work for, Dewberry, was awarded an IDIQ-like contract by the Western States Contracting Alliance (WSCA) last year to provide Cloud Computing, Cloud Consulting, and Cloud Architecture Design for a three year period with two following option years.
No dollars whatsoever were promised to Dewberry during the entire bidding process, which included an approximately 18 month long RFI, RFP, and Award negotiation process. Meaning, we dedicated hundreds of business development and proposal writing hours, over an 18-month period, to a client that promised us nothing in return except for the opportunity to perhaps supply Cloud infrastructure and services to them if they so chose.
So why did we continue to pursue this RFP?
I mean, we’re not bad business people. We understood this process wasn’t ideal in terms of what IT sales textbooks tell you to do like “control the deal” and make sure with “every concession, you get something in return”.
So why did we keep pouring hours into it?
“It comes down to the confidence you have in your solution and building a long-term strategy.”
As I mentioned earlier, although IDIQ contracts have long been used, the breadth of scope that pre-approved vendors can now provide a customer is broadening due to technology like cloud computing. For example, now that Dewberry has been awarded a long-term contract with WSCA, we can focus on becoming their strategic trusted adviser more than a silo’ed project poacher.
This means we get to understand our customer as people, personalities, and an organizational culture; not just as project requirements on paper. Based on this deeper level understanding, we can recommend solutions that reach an entirely different level of customer satisfaction; including, solving organizational, cultural, and interdepartmental issues that may have existed since the absolute beginning of their days.
In addition to this promise of long-term strategic engagement with our customers upon award, we responded because we knew we had the absolute best, most innovative, and lowest cost solution the customer could buy (in large part to a successful partnership with Amazon Web Services) and therefore we could easily become the one-stop IT shop for every State, Local, and even Federal Government entity (WSCA allows any U.S. based government entity to purchase from the contract with approval).
My purposeful use of my phrase “one-stop IT shop” and not just “Cloud provider” shows that we obviously thought well ahead of the written words in the original RFP, which was titled simply “Public Cloud Contract.”
We knew that cloud technology had changed the landscape of IT procurement so much that these future customers would end up bypassing other legacy RFP procurement cycles like software license buys and system integration projects, because having access to this contract vehicle would enable them to hop online and within a few clicks, buy a pre-installed, pre-licensed hosted cloud server instances with powerhouse software like Oracle, SAP and Microsoft… All without ever talking to a software, hardware, networking, or consulting vendor
“Man, it feels great to e
mpower customers to buy on their own terms!”
So, is it worth chasing RFP’s? Damn betcha! But, only if you have a strategy where an award will set you up to be a long term trusted adviser and, most importantly, you are confident that your solution is in the absolute best interest of your customer.
If “no” to any of those points, then you are better off saving your business development hours for relationship-based selling like golfing with a CIO and praying he likes to watch you slice it into the woods, again.