Companies are always looking for vendors and partners. They do this through a request for proposal (RFP). However, you should go about the RFP process in a way that yields the best possible results. In many cases, it is the first impression that counts, and you only get one shot at making a good one. Then again, the RFP process may not be the tell-all when it comes to the selection process. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a very valuable piece of a large puzzle.
When approaching someone with a procurement-driven request, you must know what questions to ask. Unfortunately, there are cases where the wrong questions have been asked. In fact, the questions were so wrong that they weren’t even relevant to the targeted agency. This can cause a lot of confusion and a desire to not move forward with a working relationship.
Asking the Right Questions
One of the first things you must do is narrow down your list of potential partners. You want to focus on no more than three. Once your short list is established, ask them to complete a request for information. This can be simpler than asking for the proposal, as you can ask simple questions like:
- What is your specialty?
- How long have you worked in the industry?
- What are some of your best projects?
- Are there any colleagues I can consult with about your performance?
You could even ask for a short essay or a letter about a specific subject. The subject can be the person to see how they talk about themselves. It’s amazing what you can find out about a person through this simple exercise.
If you like what you see from the simple request for information, you can invite the prospect to come to your office. Face-to-face interaction is very telling. You can evaluate people skills, and the prospective partner can see if the culture within your business is what they are looking for. If it isn’t, then your list narrows down even more. Expect the meeting to last an entire day so they can get an idea of the work environment while everyone gets acquainted.
The face-to-face meeting, not the RFP or RFI, should be the true first impression. The RFP or RFI lets you test the waters. If you allow the information or proposal request to be a sole deciding factor, you could be missing out on some very valuable talent.
Hold off on the Pricing Questions
Pricing isn’t always the most important factor, especially when you find that a candidate is a great fit. It should be made clear from the very start that fit and quality are the two most important elements. The compensation conversation should be the very last step in the process. You can ask for a full RFP at this phase if you haven’t already. By this point, you will be more aware of which questions are appropriate.
If you find that the candidate could be a major asset to the company, they may be worth a little more compensation. Great candidates can offset the higher pay rate through their productivity and value to the company. Someone who will take a lower pay rate may still not justify what they are being paid if they can’t offset it with the value they provide. This is why selecting the right person is so important to your company. It’s also important to the candidate. By implementing a well thought-out process, you can find that person.