Dealing with RFPs

     Requests for proposals (and similar terms) have advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is the implication that the low bid will get the job, so new consultants can establish a track record and others can buy jobs. For some state contracts, there is a requirement that the low bidder get the job. However, there is generally a catch. The low bid must show the capacity to do the job. If they don’t know you, or your bid is poorly done or incomplete, they move on to the next highest bidder.

     Requests for proposals (and similar terms) have advantages and disadvantages. The main advantage is the implication that the low bid will get the job, so new consultants can establish a track record and others can buy jobs. For some state contracts, there is a requirement that the low bidder get the job. However, there is generally a catch. The low bid must show the capacity to do the job. If they don’t know you, or your bid is poorly done or incomplete, they move on to the next highest bidder. This leaves room for subjectivity: “Nobody knows them and they haven’t done any similar jobs so I think it would be too big a risk to go with them.”

     One answer here is to never submit a proposal without talking to the principals involved, so they will know you. You’ll also get a read on how open they are, and you should be able to see past accepted proposals.

     Unfortunately, the situation can be even worse than this. It’s also not uncommon for RFPs to be written in such a way that only their favored firm qualifies. Or, if three bids are required, their favored firm qualifies best. Worse yet, it’s been know for procurement officers to take the best proposal and give it to a friend to copy and improve on.

     In general, we urge caution responding to RFPs. If you can create boilerplate that makes your proposals fast to do, that obviates much of the risk. You can win work this way, just be wary.

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