Responding to RFPs

2009-10-27 20:00:00 -0400


Since the topic is going around lately, I figured we’d chime in. Max Cammeron of Big Bang makes a strength-in-numbers appeal to consultants everywhere to abandon RFPs, while Carl Smith from nGen Works has a post up making a strong case that RFPs aren’t good for his clients. We don’t respond to RFPs either, and this isn’t because we’re starving artists/consultants. Many of the comments on Max’s article at Hacker News seem to be pushing this notion that responding to RFPs is the cost of business for a consultancy, and they couldn’t be more wrong.

We don’t respond to RFPs, and all of our business comes from repeat customers and referrals. And we’re not exactly making web sites for Jumpin’ Jack’s Chicken Shack, we’ve got some really big clients. Stephen gave a really good run down of why we don’t need ’em in a recent interview with Subvert.ca (emphasis added):

When we get a referral or start a new project for a past customer, there’s already a relationship in place. The client already knows that they can trust us, and it cuts out the entire “dance” that we’d otherwise have to do to prove ourselves. There are other benefits, too.

People only ask us to prepare a proposal when they are seriously considering a project. Plus, we rarely find ourselves as column fodder behind another incumbent company — we call it column fodder when you have no hope of winning a deal and your estimate is just filling in a cell on a spreadsheet for comparison purposes.

This level of trust also means that we can work more closely with our customers to develop requirements. They take our estimates and advice seriously. In the end it works out better for everyone involved.

We can talk ourselves blue in the face about the effectiveness or lack thereof in the RFP process, as I’m sure they will remain in the industry for some time, but in the end, nothing replaces good work combined with good communication, and trust. We only work with people we trust, and so do our clients.

Stay tuned, sports fans; later this morning I’ll post a run-down of where we’re going with Tempo, our time-tracker. Change is afoot!


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