Posted: 2014 on stoneviews.wordpress.com
When you fill out a standard intake form for information on a service or product, you are guided through a questionnaire that company has devised to make it simple for them to respond to you. While it may be convenient because sometimes we just don’t know what we want until a month after we bought the wrong thing, it does not allow us to tailor our needs to that company’s services or products.
A Request for Proposal (RFP) is used to help provide a list of specifications to the company who will be bidding for your business. It helps them develop a sense of what you truly need and not just what have to give you. Sometimes it can even force them to think outside the box because you asked for something they never even thought of providing.
My philosophy on RFPs is a very simple approach but it requires a great deal of patience and time to design and execute the format. I make my RFPs long and difficult to answer. You don’t want a company that is going to shoot you back a menu of services that you can choose from or a channel lineup with tiered pricing. You want them to give you ONLY the services you ask for at a high level of quality for the most affordable price they can manage. You’ll have to understand those companies may need to mark some things up to make some money but you can expect that some services that are used quite often to be packaged into a fixed price, if possible, so you don’t get nickel and dimed to the poorhouse.
- Explanation of who or what will be receiving services
- Explanation on how you expect to use their product
- Explain what your ideals are
- Explain your standards
- Explain any dealbreaker terms
- Explain whether you expect services to be fixed price, variable or mixed
Proposal Submission Requirements
- Cover letter with an acknowledgement of your requirements
- Primary Point of Contact
- Signature of an authorized company representative
- If you are already receiving services from another company, you may wish to ask them for a transition plan
- If industry certifications are applicable, you can include proof of certification as a requirement
- Specify if any paperwork needs to be completely filled out
- You may wish to come up with a Questionnaire to see how they answer oddball questions or scenarios (a good way to gauge out of the box thinking)
- How you wish their proposal to be submitted (email, US Mail, fax, etc.)
- A firm deadline to meet
Proposal Point of Contact
- Identify a contact they can reach if they need clarification on some items or confirmation of receipt for their proposal.
Standard Templates or Forms
- Give them a template to fill out with pricing for the type of services you require.
- If they try to give me a standard fact sheet instead of using your template, then don’t accept their bid.
- The standard template is important to use because it allows you to compare the companies side by side, apples to apples.
So that’s the difficult part. The easy part is sending this same RFP to as many companies as you can. Some won’t respond because it takes them too much time to fill all that out. That’s fine. That is a built in mechanism into this process which will help you weed out the lazy bums who aren’t willing to work harder for your business. The ones that do respond are the only ones you need to focus on evaluating.
Make those companies fight for your business. You shouldn’t be fighting for theirs.