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Selecting the right partner to help solve key strategic problems is one of the more challenging tasks organisations must navigate. Companies try to find and select a partner based on (sales) information gathered through a Q&A style RFP (request for proposal) process where they try to assess whether the consultant is the right fit for the organisation. However, often this process has commenced whilst there is existing ambiguity about the actual problem that needs to be solved. The RFP process has been around for decades and both clients and vendors have had to develop teams and processes to deal with them. But do they deliver the expected value, both for the client and the vendor? We don’t think so.
Selecting a vendor by RFP would seem to make a lot of sense. The RFP helps you to objectively evaluate each potential consultancy on its merits compared to competitive capabilities. You ensure each potential supplier answers the same questions. You get a clear view of the capabilities, approach, leadership, team, and pricing.
However, quite often, the reasons for choosing one consultancy over another are anything but objective. Values that contribute to your selection decision, such as innovation and client-vendor chemistry, are hard to quantify. We think using a rigid, pre-determined checklist as the basis for selecting a consulting services provider is a sub-optimal way to finding the best partner.
On both sides, significant effort is wasted writing the perfect RFP or preparing the perfect response.
On top of the obvious time and energy that is wasted by preparing an RFP and going through the process, there are three key reasons why both clients and consultancies should push to avoid the RFP.
A. For clients
B. For consultants
While the RFP process might benefit from well-defined activities that can objectively be reviewed and compared, we believe for strategic problem solving and growth opportunity ideation, a more collaborative process delivers a more optimal outcome, both for the client and the consultant.
The optimal approach, in our opinion, is for a shorter, more focussed, and collaborative approach, whereby through one or two workshops, both parties have an opportunity to get to know each other.
Unlike a conventional pitch process, the workshop approach mirrors how clients and consultants would work in real life. And, of course, it provides for tremendous savings and minimises disruption to the client’s business.
So, next time, skip the RFP process.

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