If you have ever served in a sales position for a major company, you will inevitably come across a request from a government agency to make a bid for their business, be it at the federal, state or local level. This is typically called an RFP (Request for Proposal), an RFI (Request for Information), an RFQ (Request for Quotation) or, as I like to call it, an RFW (Request for Whatever). I say this because I do not have a lot of respect for these bid processes and have found they are more rigged for a particular vendor than they are honest requests for competitive business. Government agencies perform RFW's to try and demonstrate to the public they are being fair and forthright in their bidding process, but the reality is you really don't have a chance of winning the contract unless you already have the inside track.
We've done our fair share of RFW's over the years. We've won some, but also lost many others. For example, there was one state government where we had two agencies who had already purchased our products. When the state wanted to have all of their agencies and departments purchase similar products, we thought we had the inside track due to the two agencies. We then went about the process of producing a comprehensive and professional response to the RFW, and at a reasonable price I might add. The size of the contract was such that just about everyone in our office dropped what they were doing in order to concentrate on the RFW. We felt pretty good about the proposal we produced and confident we would be the winning bid. However, despite all of our efforts, we lost the contract which went to a competitor with a greatly inferior product. Only years later did we find out that our competitor had a local salesman who wined and dined the state's evaluation team, even going so far as to arrange for some hookers to take an "active" part in the selection process. In other words, we never stood a chance.
I don't mind losing on a level playing field, but when the chips are stacked against you before you even get started, my Scottish blood begins to boil. This little episode forced us to rethink our policy on RFW's and, as a result, we no longer waste our time on them. If someone wants our products, we instruct them to use the "sole source" designation, meaning they must declare we are the only vendor who offers this type of product. This works fine for us, but think about it, the government is stacking the deck against others by doing this. None of this sounds very fair or honest does it? But this is what happens when you try to pacify the public.
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.