I’m not going to mince words here: Request For Proposals (RFPs) are a trap, they are a bad deal and you need to stay away from them.
I know, it’s exciting to get an RFP. You are flattered when an organization thinks enough of you that they include you in their RFP process. But you know what is more flattering? When an organization calls you up directly about your services, and doesn’t make you go through a ridiculous process that will just waste your time and undercut your value.
Just think about what happens when you receive one:
- You and your team drop everything to draft a response.
- You try and think of who else is responding and how you can differentiate your company from theirs — and what they might charge so you can charge less (because that makes sense).
- You spend an unbelievable amount of time drafting a response, editing it and rewriting it while all of your existing client work gets shoved to the side.
- And since you’ve gone to all that work, you spend a small fortune printing it so that it will stand out from the other proposals.
- You submit it … and wait. And wait.
Then, one of two things happens: You find out you got it or you find out you didn’t. Either way, it’s not good. If you didn’t receive it, you feel depressed about all that money and time you wasted on the RFP (but you rationalize that it was all a learning process and you will know what to do for the next RFP). If you were awarded the contract, you feel depressed about all the money and time you wasted on the RFP — and all the money and time you are about to lose by making a bad deal (but you rationalize that this is your trick to get them in, but good luck raising your prices later).
I see this mistake being made over and over again in small businesses. So many business owners keep getting burned by this process, yet they go back for more!
So what do you do? You need business and your odds of getting business are greater with an RFP, right? Well, that’s the myth anyway.
Here is is what I recommend:
- Do some research on the company. Do they represent your ideal client? If yes, then go to No. 2. If not, toss it; End of story.
- If you are interested in doing business with this company, contact them — but not with a proposal. Send a letter like this one that says that you appreciated being included in their RFP process, that you are interested in doing business with them but that the RFP process is not conducive to the way you do business. When the company sees that, they will either dismiss you (and that’s ok) or they will be intrigued with you and call you for more information. After all, if you’re not desperate for work, they will think that you must be pretty good, and that you might be worth a little extra money.
- If you do get a meeting with this prospect, continue to stand your ground. Ask for what you are worth and nothing less.
Instead of wasting your time on RFPs, use that time to originate your own leads with clients who know and need your expertise — and win some business that doesn’t require you to jump through hoops. Invest your time in proven techniques like content marketing and positioning yourself in the right places to attract the right kinds of clients. By taking that approach, you will be more of a “winner” than you would be if you go the RFP route. I guarantee it!
What do you think about RFPs?
Photo Credi: Martyn Wright