No RFPs! Why requests for proposal are bad for business (and how we can stop them)Crystal Williams, Brian Skowron, Todd Ni...
Who we are             #NoRFPs
Who we are• Crystal Williams• Brian Skowron, Lullabot• Todd Nienkerk, Four Kitchens• Zach Chandler, Stanford University   ...
Who we areFavorite RFP memories                    #NoRFPs
Why RFPs?            #NoRFPs
Why RFPs? ➜ Good reasonThe Good ReasonThere’s work to be done, and a customer is lookingfor vendors to help               ...
Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasonsThe Bad Reasons“That’s just how we’ve always done it”                                         #NoRFPs
Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasons“I think I’m supposed to write an RFP”                                         #NoRFPs
Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasons“It’s a standard requirement”                                #NoRFPs
Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasonsRequired to gather competitive bid for projects oversome amount of money                           ...
Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsThe Really Bad ReasonsPricing a project to gain leverage over an existingvendor             ...
Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsFree consulting: Get a blueprint, take it in house                                          ...
Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsRisk aversion: Displace responsibility to the vendor                                        ...
Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsQualifying new vendors                                 #NoRFPs
Why respond?Best-case scenario                     #NoRFPs
Why respond? ➜ Best-case scenario (Crystal Williams)Small shops, big projectsIt’s not common (or easy), but it is possible...
Why respond? ➜ Best-case scenario (Crystal Williams)Practice “safe RFP”Appropriate Complexity to the Size of Project?Prior...
Why respond?Adjacent benefits                   #NoRFPs
Why respond? ➜ Adjacent benefits (Lullabot)Sending a bigger messageWe knew there was a chance we’d lose a recentRFP, but we...
Why respond? ➜ Adjacent benefits (Lullabot)If you assume you’re going to lose, is there still anupside?                    ...
Why respond?Product analysis                   #NoRFPs
Why respond? ➜ Product analysis (Lullabot)Using RFPs to test a new serviceWith Lullabot’s new Videola service, RFPs helped...
Why respond? ➜ Product analysis (Lullabot)RFPs can teach you about your strengths andweaknesses relative to a new market  ...
Why respond?Maybe you shouldn’t                      #NoRFPs
Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)30-40 hours per RFP response$5,000-7,000 opportunity costWon only 22% of...
Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)On the flip side...84% of work involved no RFPs — just personalconnection...
Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)ConclusionsRFPs have driven a small, but not insignificant,amount of busi...
Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)Collateral damage:Word’s gotten out that Four Kitchens “doesn’trespond t...
Try this at home                   #NoRFPs
Try this at homeCalculate your “hit rate”List all RFPs you’ve ever replied to, and mark thoseyou won                      ...
Try this at homeCalculate how reliant you are on RFPsList all projects you’ve ever “won,” and mark thosethat actually foll...
Try this at homeCalculate the cost of responding to an RFP              time spent writing proposal,              communic...
Try this at homeNow weigh that cost against• Project’s revenue  • Will you actually make money?• Likelihood of RFP win  • ...
Meanwhile, on the client’sside...                      #NoRFPs
The client speaksClients like RFPs because they creates a sense ofrigor around the selection process...and it’s familiar.....
The client speaksWe can build a betterprocess                        #NoRFPs
The client speaks ➜ Build a better process• personalized invitation to bid• expository sketch (not a specification)• presen...
The client speaks ➜ Build a better processThis results in more work, but a better result, for theclient and the project   ...
Advice to clients                    #NoRFPs
Advice to clientsRequire speaking to the people who are going towork on the projectSalespeople should be facilitators, not...
Advice to clientsBeware of low bidsThey are often too good to be true                                     #NoRFPs
Advice to clientsPre-select, research, and vet vendorsNo open bids                                        #NoRFPs
Advice to clientsDo not create an exact specification in advance                                            #NoRFPs
Advice to clientsCheck referencesWord of mouth is not always right                                    #NoRFPs
Advice to clientsBe open about your budget, and ask vendors if theyfeel it is feasibleYou may be wasting many vendors’ tim...
Advice to vendors                    #NoRFPs
Advice to vendorsAsk clients how many other vendors they’re invitingto bid                                             #No...
Advice to vendorsBe open: Ask if it’s really worth your time torespond                                                 #No...
Advice to vendors ➜ Ask if it’s worth your time“Why were we invited to bid?”“Are vendors with existing relationships under...
Advice to vendorsAsk if another vendor had been hired to write anRFP or evaluationIn these cases, it’s likely that vendor ...
Advice to vendorsAsk about the selection process                                  #NoRFPs
Advice to vendorsRequire a phone, video, or in-person meetingEvaluate client consensus around requirements,goals          ...
Advice to vendorsAsk if the client has ever embarked on a project likethis beforeIf not, their expectations in terms of co...
Advice to vendorsDoes the client respect your work and industry?Or are you just a bunch of “techies”?                     ...
Advice to vendorsOffer alternatives to the RFP-proposal processAs part of any sales or negotiation process, theevaluation s...
Advice to vendors ➜ Offer alternativesOffer to write an evaluation rather than a proposalSee “Stop Writing Project Proposals...
Advice to vendors ➜ Offer alternativesSuggest RFI instead of RFP“Do you want to proceed?”“Not sure if we’re a fit. Let’s tel...
Where do we go fromhere?                      #NoRFPs
Where do we go from here?• Crystal Williams• Brian Skowron, Lullabot• Todd Nienkerk, Four Kitchens• Zach Chandler, Stanfor...
Where do we go from here? ➜ Final wordsResponsible bid process                                          #NoRFPs
Resources            #NoRFPs
Resources• Stop Writing Project Proposals Jonathan Wold, Smashing Magazine http://cog.gd/3l2• RFPs: The Least Creative Way...
Resources• 6 Steps to Writing a Better Request for Proposals Confluent Forms http://cog.gd/3l3• Buying Wins Joe Rinaldi, Co...
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No RFPs! Why requests for proposal are bad for business (and how we can stop them)

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Originally presented at DrupalCon Denver (March 20, 2012).

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No RFPs! Why requests for proposal are bad for business (and how we can stop them)

  1. 1. No RFPs! Why requests for proposal are bad for business (and how we can stop them)Crystal Williams, Brian Skowron, Todd Nienkerk, and Zach ChandlerDrupalCon Denver | March 20, 2012 #NoRFPs
  2. 2. Who we are #NoRFPs
  3. 3. Who we are• Crystal Williams• Brian Skowron, Lullabot• Todd Nienkerk, Four Kitchens• Zach Chandler, Stanford University #NoRFPs
  4. 4. Who we areFavorite RFP memories #NoRFPs
  5. 5. Why RFPs? #NoRFPs
  6. 6. Why RFPs? ➜ Good reasonThe Good ReasonThere’s work to be done, and a customer is lookingfor vendors to help #NoRFPs
  7. 7. Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasonsThe Bad Reasons“That’s just how we’ve always done it” #NoRFPs
  8. 8. Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasons“I think I’m supposed to write an RFP” #NoRFPs
  9. 9. Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasons“It’s a standard requirement” #NoRFPs
  10. 10. Why RFPs? ➜ Bad reasonsRequired to gather competitive bid for projects oversome amount of money #NoRFPs
  11. 11. Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsThe Really Bad ReasonsPricing a project to gain leverage over an existingvendor #NoRFPs
  12. 12. Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsFree consulting: Get a blueprint, take it in house #NoRFPs
  13. 13. Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsRisk aversion: Displace responsibility to the vendor #NoRFPs
  14. 14. Why RFPs? ➜ Really bad reasonsQualifying new vendors #NoRFPs
  15. 15. Why respond?Best-case scenario #NoRFPs
  16. 16. Why respond? ➜ Best-case scenario (Crystal Williams)Small shops, big projectsIt’s not common (or easy), but it is possible for anexceptionally well qualified team to break throughto the “Big Leagues” with RFPs #NoRFPs
  17. 17. Why respond? ➜ Best-case scenario (Crystal Williams)Practice “safe RFP”Appropriate Complexity to the Size of Project?Prior Relationship or Internal AdvocateIf you can’t afford to lose this project, you might notbe able to afford to win in #NoRFPs
  18. 18. Why respond?Adjacent benefits #NoRFPs
  19. 19. Why respond? ➜ Adjacent benefits (Lullabot)Sending a bigger messageWe knew there was a chance we’d lose a recentRFP, but we also knew the potential of otherprojects from the clientRFP response was a way to demonstratecapabilities in a more comprehensive way to a wideraudience #NoRFPs
  20. 20. Why respond? ➜ Adjacent benefits (Lullabot)If you assume you’re going to lose, is there still anupside? #NoRFPs
  21. 21. Why respond?Product analysis #NoRFPs
  22. 22. Why respond? ➜ Product analysis (Lullabot)Using RFPs to test a new serviceWith Lullabot’s new Videola service, RFPs helped usencounter questions we hadnt thought of, in a low-pressure settingWe were able to perform product and businessanalysis driven by actual client needs #NoRFPs
  23. 23. Why respond? ➜ Product analysis (Lullabot)RFPs can teach you about your strengths andweaknesses relative to a new market #NoRFPs
  24. 24. Why respond?Maybe you shouldn’t #NoRFPs
  25. 25. Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)30-40 hours per RFP response$5,000-7,000 opportunity costWon only 22% of the RFP-driven proposals wesubmittedOnly 16% of work resulted from RFPs #NoRFPs
  26. 26. Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)On the flip side...84% of work involved no RFPs — just personalconnections and word-of-mouth #NoRFPs
  27. 27. Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)ConclusionsRFPs have driven a small, but not insignificant,amount of businessIt costs less for us to send a team to meet apotential client than responding to an RFP #NoRFPs
  28. 28. Why respond? ➜ Maybe you shouldn’t (Four Kitchens)Collateral damage:Word’s gotten out that Four Kitchens “doesn’trespond to RFPs”At least one client did not send us an RFP as aresult #NoRFPs
  29. 29. Try this at home #NoRFPs
  30. 30. Try this at homeCalculate your “hit rate”List all RFPs you’ve ever replied to, and mark thoseyou won #NoRFPs
  31. 31. Try this at homeCalculate how reliant you are on RFPsList all projects you’ve ever “won,” and mark thosethat actually followed an RFP-proposal process #NoRFPs
  32. 32. Try this at homeCalculate the cost of responding to an RFP time spent writing proposal, communicating with client, etc. × your blended rate opportunity cost + travel expenses cost of responding #NoRFPs
  33. 33. Try this at homeNow weigh that cost against• Project’s revenue • Will you actually make money?• Likelihood of RFP win • Are there other projects you are more likely to win? #NoRFPs
  34. 34. Meanwhile, on the client’sside... #NoRFPs
  35. 35. The client speaksClients like RFPs because they creates a sense ofrigor around the selection process...and it’s familiar... #NoRFPs
  36. 36. The client speaksWe can build a betterprocess #NoRFPs
  37. 37. The client speaks ➜ Build a better process• personalized invitation to bid• expository sketch (not a specification)• presentations• Q&A period• documented vendor review process• executive summary• SoW should be collaborative and iterative #NoRFPs
  38. 38. The client speaks ➜ Build a better processThis results in more work, but a better result, for theclient and the project #NoRFPs
  39. 39. Advice to clients #NoRFPs
  40. 40. Advice to clientsRequire speaking to the people who are going towork on the projectSalespeople should be facilitators, not themouthpieces of the vendor #NoRFPs
  41. 41. Advice to clientsBeware of low bidsThey are often too good to be true #NoRFPs
  42. 42. Advice to clientsPre-select, research, and vet vendorsNo open bids #NoRFPs
  43. 43. Advice to clientsDo not create an exact specification in advance #NoRFPs
  44. 44. Advice to clientsCheck referencesWord of mouth is not always right #NoRFPs
  45. 45. Advice to clientsBe open about your budget, and ask vendors if theyfeel it is feasibleYou may be wasting many vendors’ time only todiscover your budget is way off the mark #NoRFPs
  46. 46. Advice to vendors #NoRFPs
  47. 47. Advice to vendorsAsk clients how many other vendors they’re invitingto bid #NoRFPs
  48. 48. Advice to vendorsBe open: Ask if it’s really worth your time torespond #NoRFPs
  49. 49. Advice to vendors ➜ Ask if it’s worth your time“Why were we invited to bid?”“Are vendors with existing relationships underconsideration?”“How did you find out about you us?” #NoRFPs
  50. 50. Advice to vendorsAsk if another vendor had been hired to write anRFP or evaluationIn these cases, it’s likely that vendor will get the job— not you #NoRFPs
  51. 51. Advice to vendorsAsk about the selection process #NoRFPs
  52. 52. Advice to vendorsRequire a phone, video, or in-person meetingEvaluate client consensus around requirements,goals #NoRFPs
  53. 53. Advice to vendorsAsk if the client has ever embarked on a project likethis beforeIf not, their expectations in terms of cost anddifficulty may not be realistic #NoRFPs
  54. 54. Advice to vendorsDoes the client respect your work and industry?Or are you just a bunch of “techies”? #NoRFPs
  55. 55. Advice to vendorsOffer alternatives to the RFP-proposal processAs part of any sales or negotiation process, theevaluation system itself is often negotiable #NoRFPs
  56. 56. Advice to vendors ➜ Offer alternativesOffer to write an evaluation rather than a proposalSee “Stop Writing Project Proposals” by JonathanWold, Smashing Magazine: cog.gd/3l2 #NoRFPs
  57. 57. Advice to vendors ➜ Offer alternativesSuggest RFI instead of RFP“Do you want to proceed?”“Not sure if we’re a fit. Let’s tell you more aboutourselves.” #NoRFPs
  58. 58. Where do we go fromhere? #NoRFPs
  59. 59. Where do we go from here?• Crystal Williams• Brian Skowron, Lullabot• Todd Nienkerk, Four Kitchens• Zach Chandler, Stanford University #NoRFPs
  60. 60. Where do we go from here? ➜ Final wordsResponsible bid process #NoRFPs
  61. 61. Resources #NoRFPs
  62. 62. Resources• Stop Writing Project Proposals Jonathan Wold, Smashing Magazine http://cog.gd/3l2• RFPs: The Least Creative Way to Hire People Greg Hoy, A List Apart http://cog.gd/28b #NoRFPs
  63. 63. Resources• 6 Steps to Writing a Better Request for Proposals Confluent Forms http://cog.gd/3l3• Buying Wins Joe Rinaldi, Cognition http://cog.gd/30p #NoRFPs

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