The concept is simple: RFP’s are issued to find the lowest cost provider that will offer the highest value return. However, while the concept is easy to understand for both the customer and the bidder, drafting the bid document is a complex task. After receiving and completing countless RFP’s in my career, it was always painfully clear when an RFP was written without the benefit of even the most basic understanding of what it takes to build a branded merchandise program for the corporate customer. Bidders put in endless hours to research, analyze and justify the cost of the products and services they offer, but often submit that information knowing the team of reviewers may not fully understand how each respondent will apply their particular set of skills to building a program that meets the unique needs of that client. The RFP process should bring a clear understanding of how well the winning bidder will perform as a trusted expert advisor, not just as the lowest-cost provider.
If we can all agree that to purchase branded merchandise through a distributor-hosted web site is not the same thing as understanding the complicated process of developing and managing a multi-tiered promotional merchandise program, then we can also agree that employing that level of insight should be one of the most important parts of the RFP process. If you have a strong partnership with your current provider, that could be the best place to start. As an alternative, an outside consultant with the appropriate industry experience can provide unbiased support for this exercise. But, regardless of the solution, the need for an educated approach to this very important process is undeniable. After all, as I’m often told by IT programmers helping me to design a comprehensive activity report for my customers … Junk In, Junk Out! Consider this is a call to eliminate the Junk from your next RFP!