You just got a huge RFP, now what?

Let’s face it- when a 113 page RFP hits your desk with a response deadline of 6 business days out and counting, the task at hand seems arduous at best. Even with the assistance of extended team members (at the vendor and internally within DLT), the level of effort needed to submit a compliant response is daunting and forces us to truly raise the bar on our attention to detail. More importantly, it brings new meaning to working collectively with a team, under pressure, towards a common goal- winning the business. The process is reminiscent of group term papers in college: there’s a lot of scrambling to be had by everyone involved and the final product is never complete until the eleventh hour. In college, procrastination and the lack of successful team collaboration were usually the factors to blame for working all hours of the night. We all remember those dreaded group projects that just never seemed to go over very well. Completing a successful and compelling RFP response however, involves a highly specialized process that takes time, research, planning, communication, and trust to get to the finish line. It also leaves no margin of error. One minor mistake with text formatting or one missing signature and the proposal is canned, deemed as non-compliant, with no questions asked. That’s reason enough to be overly diligent when finalizing the response, not to mention the hours and man-power already put forth while writing the technical content itself. So why do organizations put vendors through the ringer and force us to comb through such complicated requirements with a magnifying glass, with no guarantee of a win? Moreover, what compels us to participate? Read on… In the purchasing world, an RFP is issued for multiple reasons- but the purest definition of the acronym RFP, “Request For Proposal” is an invitation for multiple vendors to put their best foot forward and sell the customer on why their solution is the best in the market place. Many organizations use a structured RFP process for large projects because it’s one of the most effective ways to ensure that the final proposal chosen will be the right fit for their requirements. With ever-changing technological advancements in the industry combined with saturation in the marketplace (inevitable from competing vendors with overlapping technologies), decision-makers often rely on RFP responses to get an in-depth understanding of the competitive landscape that’s available for grabs. Another advantage is that the RFP process allows any and all potential risks to be identified up front, which ultimately protects the powers that be who will sign off on the purchase. In a nutshell, big business decisions equal high stakes for everyone involved so the process, as complicated as it is, is not only justifiable but ultimately worth it in the end. The silver lining is that there’s more to winning an RFP than money in our pockets. The long-term rewards are far greater. Winning a subjective RFP gives us name recognition within the purchasing organization but much more importantly, it gives us a real foothold within that technology space and a leg up against our competitors. So the next time you’re hit with a massive RFP, keep your focus on the horizon and all the doors just waiting to be opened if you win.