5 Little Known Truths about RFP’s

As a consultant, you probably spend a lot of time trying to find consultant jobs.

The opportunities listed in RFP (Request for Proposal) databases which are used by large companies and government agencies can seem like a blessing when you are actively looking for a new consulting work.

This can be a double edged sword however, and there are a few pitfalls you need to be aware of. Here are the top five you should be thinking of:

1. Clients Have Existing Vendors
Most big companies and government agencies have already worked with a particular consultant or consulting firm and already have an established relationship.

Of course, their policies may require them, when hiring consultants, to put the process out on a tender, bid or request for proposal basis. That does not mean they do not already have a preferred provider in mind.

2. Assessments Are Not Always Unbiased
Because of the existing relationship between a company or department and a particular consultant, the process involved in assessing proposals before hiring a consultant is not always as transparent as intended.

There may even be clues in the document, along the lines of previous experience with the department or company, which could exclude all but a select few.

3. Timeframes Are a Giveaway
If an RFP comes out with a ridiculously short timeframe between the advertisement date and the closing date, it’s a surefire giveaway that the company or department involved is attempting to reduce the numbers of proposals.

They may have provided consultants with details before the project was advertised, or the consultant who helped them with setting up the RFP may have slipped it by them.

4. Sometimes, Consultants Set Up RFP’s
As a favor to a client, a consultant may even set up an RFP on their client’s behalf. Client’s like this because they have had experience working with the consultant in question, and the consultant loves it, because they can make it difficult, if not impossible, for other bidders to win the contract!

These consultants set up the RFP with the view to making the client’s choice when hiring a consultant an easy one – their company. They may also include a proprietary product, service or process, so that on the slim chance that someone else is awarded the project, they still get a piece of the action.

5. Despite All This, It May Still Be Worth It
While there may be behind the scenes activities going on between the client and a handful of consultants they are hoping to hire, there is still hope.

If you, while searching for consulting jobs, stumble upon an RFP, it is still worth considering submitting a proposal.

Consider that because of the process, if you submit a compliant proposal, at the right price, on time, you will have to be considered. If your proposal blows everyone else’s out of the water, chances are you will win the project.

So while it’s very worthwhile to be cautious about RFP’s, if you’re looking to get hired as a consultant, it is definitely an option to consider.

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  • Leah Waddill

    Very prudent information. It is great to get perspective from someone who has already done it. We are looking into some RFP opportunities, but because our service is very consultative (especially in developing a marketing plan), we could have potentially spent too much time on open RFPs. That isn’t to say that we won’t spend time on them, but it has made us aware that we should work on developing a template/formula to work within as much as possible in these situations. Are there any resources specifically in your Consulting 2.0 product that deals with open RFPs from large businesses and/or government divisions? My partner and I just bought it, but haven’t gotten all of the way through it yet.