Monday, April 20, 2009

Unsolicited RFPs: Just Say, No!

How to deal with RFPs ...

Imagine that you’re sitting at your desk, and you receive an email message from someone you don’t know who is sending you a Request for Proposal (RFP). You don’t even have any contacts at their company. What do you do?

Like so many other independent UX consultants, when I first started consulting, I would jump at the opportunity to bid on work for new prospective clients. Excited about a new prospect, which just seemed to fall in my lap, I didn’t hesitate to spend a day crafting the perfect proposal. Over the years, I’ve responded to countless RFPs—without gaining the work or a client list to show for it. What was I doing wrong? Why wasn’t I winning any of the bids from these RFPs?

It took a lot of guidance from different mentors and a sales coach before I finally understood: The reason I wasn’t winning these bids was because I didn’t have a relationship with the prospective clients before submitting my proposal. I was responding to unsolicited RFPs, without ever having had a conversation with the project stakeholders. I didn’t realize that, under these circumstances, it’s better to not even respond to the RFP. The goal of this article is to help other UX consultants by preventing their making the same mistakes I’ve made with RFPs and, hopefully, to educate prospective clients on a better alternative for reaching out and hiring us.

Wikipedia defines an RFP as “an invitation for suppliers, often through a bidding process, to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service….” There are different kinds of RFPs. This article focuses on what is known as an unsolicited, or blind, RFP. An unsolicited RFP is an RFP that a company sends out to vendors or suppliers without establishing any kind of communication or introduction to the company or its stakeholders beforehand. Companies typically send out an unsolicited RFP to at least three to five different vendors. From the perspective of the vendor or supplier, the scenario is similar to the one I’ve just described. When responding to an unsolicited RFP without knowing the stakeholders, you are doing so blind—hence the term blind RFP.

Don’t Respond to Unsolicited RFPs

I know receiving an unsolicited RFP can seem like someone has given you a map to buried treasure, but if you’re a UX consultant, I’m urging you to just throw it away—and don’t even think about picking up that shovel to start digging! It can be hard to simply put that RFP in the trash, but you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time, disappointment, and frustration if you do. I know there are people who are reading this and shaking their heads in disagreement; I know because I used to be one of them. But don’t stop reading just yet, nonbelievers! Let me explain why responding to an unsolicited RFP is probably a waste of your precious time."    (Continued via UXmatters, Kyle Soucy)    [Usability Resources]

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