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Should we respond to RFPs...?

By Rich Campbell

For the past several years, our policy has been to not respond to RFPs. The process is flawed and a complete waste of time and resources. We are confident in our ability to deliver quality work at a fair price. We want to work with clients who want to work with us. What's so wrong about that? Shouldn't it be that simple?

I love Joel Spolsky's definition of RFP:

RFP stands for "Request for Proposal." It's a request by a large company for a custom proposal from a small company. The small company works on the 200 page laser-printed proposal like mad for three weeks and Fedexes it in great expense and at the last minute, where it gets put in the trash because the large company has their favorite vendor who takes them on a helicopter to Atlantic City on junkets involving blackjack and strippers, and who is going to get the contract no matter what, but someone in purchasing for some unexplained reason, maybe he's bucking for a promotion is insisting that the proposal be opened up to "competitive bidding" and the small company has been chosen as a victim to write up a proposal that has no chance of being accepted just to make the process look a little bit less corrupt, and if you're a small company, I would recommend that you don't fall for it and don't spend any time responding to RFPs unless it's already understood that you're going to get the contract.

Don't get me wrong, RFPs are a great tool for companies performing "retroactive due-diligence" after first deciding on a vendor. They bring in a few more eager companies to submit proposals which they can then use to negotiate a lower price with the "chosen one." Nice.

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