What do you do when you receive a Request For Proposal (RFP)?

request for proposal

This week on two minute Tuesday we’re going to start the menu with alphabet soup! We’re going to be looking at T’s and C’s for ITT’s and RFP’s (Terms and Conditions for Invitation to Tender and Request for Proposals).

Most of us get a thrill out of being invited to bid for a nice, juicy job.  And then you look at the big stack of tender documentation or the massive pile of attachments in your email inbox…and you think ‘How the hell are we going to plough through that lot?!’

The first and most important step is obviously the compliance matrix that lists the customer’s requirements that you can meet with your product or service. That’s usually quite easy. It’s all stuff you know about and that you understand.

You can hand that to your technical people and let them crack on. Another major step with RFP’s or ITT’s is the pricing information and then almost certainly you’ve got the terms and conditions section.

This is where things can get a little bit unpleasant, you might even not want to look at it! You don’t want to kick off this potentially lucrative relationship by saying to this customer “I’m not going to accept this and I’m not going to agree with that…but equally I don’t want to sign up to something that’s potentially going to come back and bite me later on…”

So what to do. There are a number of approaches to this as you’d expect. If they have a compliance matrix for the terms and conditions you can complete this as you see fit – but do read any instructions that accompany it as it’s easy to get carried away and make mistakes.

You don’t want to be in a position where your response makes you obliged to sign up under those precise terms and conditions unless you flagged up any particular issues. So it’s a balancing act. You have to weigh up whether you’re willing to stand your ground (and potentially lose out on getting any further with the bid process), or say ‘yes’, find yourself on the hook to some terms that you never would’ve agreed to in the first place.

If you can try and put some sort of caveat in the form of notes or a covering letter, broadly accepting the terms whilst also stating that there will be specifics that will require further refining and negotiation, that could help a lot.

So don’t rush in to say ‘yes’ to everything, but try your best to leave the door far enough open that you get through to the next stage because when it comes to risk management the biggest risk of all is that you don’t get any business.

If this has happened to you, if you’ve had any interesting experience of responding to ITT’s or RFP’s (or indeed any other 3 letter acronyms!) then please do get in touch. If you’ve got any specific questions drop us a note. Thanks for reading.

Tiffany Kemp, CEO.