Thankfully we don’t receive many Requests for Proposals because we primarily work in tight knit industries or with long standing clients. If you don’t know what a Request for Proposal is, it’s a document that is usually received from “off the street” customers, that means customers which haven’t come through by recommendation. They may have found you through a search engine, through LinkedIn, or some directory. The customer creates the document to try to vet potential suppliers and obtain quotations for their project.
For the supplier they are not great because they take time to answer well, anything from four hours to three days. The customer will have sent the request to many companies, and there is no trust recommendation, so the chance of winning is low.
For the customer they also create a double bind. The most likely companies that are going to answer a Request for Proposal are companies that are lacking work, or have comprehensive resources to be able to put the work in. That means that customers miss out on the best quality and best priced developers, the small, experienced, highly skilled businesses that concentrate primarily on their projects.
But there is a way around this. This is what we have found to work..
Keep the Request for Proposal flexible and let the developers present what they have. For example, ask the developer to provide either case studies, a portfolio, and/or references. Don’t ask for all three. Some developers prefer case studies, or others cannot routinely ask for references because of the nature of their clients. The result is the same – you get to check the developers credibility – but this way you’re not making them jump through hoops.
Move onto a meeting sooner rather than later. Don’t try to shortlist your candidate suppliers too quickly because you’re likely to miss the good ones. Once you’ve received back your Proposals, pick out all the suitable candidates and move onto a quick conference call with them. You are far more likely to be able to make a judgement from speaking with someone than from a document.
Ask what support, services, and service levels the developer can offer you rather than immediately stating what you want. This has two benefits. It allows you to vet the supplier by seeing how well designed their offering is and how well they can understand and cater to you, but it also prevents scenarios where a developer gives you what you want rather than whats best or what they are best at.
And finally, the most commonly missed questions on Requests for Proposals:
- Experience and capability of key persons that will work on the project !
- Location of key staff – YES most I.T companies use offshore workers these days.
- Supplier key contract terms
- Whether support is pro-active or re-active.
- What services or support can be provided in event of a security breach
- How will the cost of future work be calculated