There is a better way to qualify consultants and award business, rather than using the RFP process.
Good projects start with clear, straightforward communication. Unfortunately, some requests for proposals, or, RFP’s we receive are anything but. This isn’t our clients’ fault: our industry hasn’t done much to educate them on how to approach exhibit houses with their project.

The whole RFP process is awkward. Frankly, exhibit houses would be better off if we provided an intuitive way for potential clients to outline a scope of work.

When trying to think through this problem, I realized it’d be great if potential clients could send us a concise, descriptive business letter, instead of the usual dashed-off email or the twenty-page long RFP’s with various business rules.
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Request For Proposal’s (“RFP’s”) are used by many organizations to gather information and details about services and prices from various consultants. These organizations believe that this is an efficient (for the RFP issuer, at least) method and process to acquire the best possible services at the lowest price. 

But do RFP’s create a healthy relationship?
Initially, a majority of the effort involved with RFPs is creating an RFP instrument. The instrument is pushed from the issuer to the respondent, typically in a word document that is sent electronically with a deadline to respond. It is a one-way distribution channel. From my experience, the RFP document does not capture all the thoughts of the business. Some RFPs are rewritten and tweaked so many times, that sometimes it is actually difficult to uncover the true “needs” message from the final document. 

Healthy, productive relationships start with healthy communications. It has been my experience that organizations that take the time to engage in a conversation with a potential vendor to explore a possible relationship have a far better chance of developing a healthy and productive business relationship and get services at a much better price. 

What comes out of this relationship are conference sessions that generate ideas, thoughts, and brain storming that focus on developing a methodology or application design that is on target and meets the needs of the organization. Projects that promote an open and dynamic communication style from the beginning will be more likely to succeed. This communication process is powerful and creates a solid foundation for an ongoing business relationship. Allocate more time to engage and verbally communicate with the potential consultant and you will truly understand whether they can add value to your organization.

Summary
There is a better way to award business and qualify consultants, rather than using the RFP process. Engage and communicate with the consulting firm or vendor on a personal level, be honest and realistic on costs, dates, and deliverables. Build in some flexibility, and reasonableness, and follow a communicative and collaborative process. You will help your company improve, have more fun, and see some amazing results.

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