Improving the RFP Experience

A key entry point of the client-consultant relationship is the RFP — or request for proposal. For those providing a range of consulting services, the RFP has likely served as a key activity for identifying and developing new business opportunities. For the would-be clients, an RFP is your way of publicly communicating a need you have within your organization.

Most often (at least in the context of evaluation or applied research RFPs), these solicitations are filled with information about a client organization and the things they hope to learn through the course of the research/evaluation process. In many ways, RFPs — and the subsequent proposals that are submitted in kind — are a lot like a dating game. The goal of the solicitor is to match with someone that yields the greatest return on investment in terms of maximizing services and minimizing costs, while the goal of the consultant/contractor is to sell the specific advantages of working with them. Budgets don’t always decide whether a match is made, but they are an important part of the formula as client organizations assess who brings the most to the relationship.

Starting the conversation

In the coming weeks, Viable + Friends will be hosting an event to discuss the topic of RFPs, so we thought it would be good to preface that conversation with a quick pulse check on the community to see what thoughts you might have on the topic. In particular, what we’re hoping to discuss/learn about has to do with suggestions for making the RFP experience more effective.

We are by no means the first to have this conversation, but we’ve found that most of the time this discussion is oriented toward the ways in which consultants can write stronger proposals in response to RFPs. This is a critical topic and one with which we want to explore in this setting. However, we are also interested in hearing what suggestions consultants might have for clients and organizations that put out RFP solicitations. Really, this is meant to be a learning opportunity for clients and consultants alike as we collaboratively identify how to make RFPs more strategically detailed, and how to make proposals more impactful.

A collaborative wishlist

From the perspective of a consultant, we would like to start the wish list off by talking about something that affects nearly every consideration [we] make when deciding whether to respond to an RFP opportunity: timeline. This is a detail that touches on nearly every facet of a project and its corresponding scope of work. One thing that we would like to see happen is RFPs be developed with realistic — and to be honest — respectful timelines. Budgets are often very important to clients/recipients of proposals, so just a simple recognition that timelines have a direct impact on not only scope but also how much short timelines can impact the number of resources needed to get a project done (as those resources go up, so does the budget).

Timelines serve as one of several items on our wishlist for ways to improve the RFP and proposal experience. We will certainly spend time talking about this wish list during our Viable + Friends Town Hall: Improving the RFP-Proposal Experience, but until then we really want to learn more about what might be on your wishlist. Whether you’re in a consultative or client role, we want to hear from you! It is only through a shared understanding of one another’s experience, expectations, and limitations that we can work more effectively as we collaboratively work to change the world!

How you can participate

All that said, please take a moment to share your thoughts on the topic in this brief survey. We look forward to unpacking this important conversation at our Viable + Friends Town Hall: Improving the RFP-Proposal Experience. If you haven’t already done so, please register so you can join in the discussion!

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