The thorny issue of whether and how to reply to 'Requests for Proposals' (RFP) or 'Requests for Quotes' always sparks great debate in our company and in an attempt to ensure that our time is spent most effectively and before we turn the organisation upside down, we always apply rules of probability and profitability to each RFP.
I am not arrogant enough to believe that we should or could win each and every piece of business we pitch for, but it would be nice to know that we are playing on a level field. We've all had cases when we've put together the best possible bid, but the job goes to someone else who you know cannot compete on price or worse still, cannot deliver against the precise nature of what is detailed in the RFP.
I recently heard one agency complain of its dealings with a prospective client. The agency went through an exhaustive process that involved submitting a Request For Information before it was selected as one of the "lucky" agencies to be issued with an RFP. The agency dedicated £45,000 in time and resources and much brow-beating to this pitch. This might seem like a reasonable outlay to speculate if you were to accumulate. But they didn't accumulate, and neither did any of the other agencies. The only party to benefit was the in-house purchasing department, which embarked on the process as a cost-benefit analysis to justify existing internal resources.
I am not saying we should band together and banish these procurement departments. Far from it, as a well-organised group that extracts value for volume buying in return for long-term contracts and putting in place Service Level Agreements - I am all for it. But for decisions to be made exclusively on price and not value, only serves to commoditise our offering.
We all know that bidding is a very expensive business, but aren't we in danger of getting to the point where we have to start charging?