It's been a busy few weeks around here, as you may have guessed. Like many consultants I was doing the paper chase - submitting proposals for potential projects. I swore last year that I wouldn't do it again - the chance of winning versus the level of effort required just isn't worth it. But there I was doing it again at the request of a good friend. We came close - had an awesome team assembled and a reasonable 100 page proposal done in less than a week. Even made it to the orals. Then the client decided to pull the RFP.
As I was reminding myself of why I don't do RFPs I came across an article by Michael McLaughlin on Rain Today entitled Why You Should Ignore that RFP. McLaughlin points out that the process is flawed because most RFPs require that you accept that the client's diagnosis of their problem is correct. Without significant one-on-one contact, you really have no way of knowing if this true. The result is that "...the client receives a stack of mediocre proposals to solve an unconfirmed problem."
This has been my experience as well and was part of the reason our potential client was not happy with the proposals submitted by the finalists. In my proposals I always try to develop a statement of the problem and this is sometimes extremely difficult to do. What's more interesting is that a lot of the time the client can't articulate their problem or tell me how solving it would benefit their organization.
So may I suggest that those of you who are still seeking services through the RFP process consider other alternatives? At least read my article Stop Throwing Your Money Away: Eight Tips for Improving Your RFP. Meanwhile, I'm taping McLaughlin's article someplace where I can re-read it next time I'm tempted to respond to an RFP.