Today’s guest post is by Vicki Bohlsen the president of Bohlsen PR.  Her topic:  The RFP and how tot participate in the process in a way which helps you determine if the project is right for you. 

Would you take a job without meeting your new boss?

I’m sure you’ve participated in the RFP (Request for Proposal) debate. To answer them or not, that is the question.  I know people say they would never an answer an RFP, and I know people who search them out like black jelly beans and answer any and all they can find. I’m probably somewhere in the middle. I’m of the belief that I would never hire someone from just their resume, and that a company shouldn’t hire a vendor just from a proposal.

About a year and a half ago, I had my first opportunity to write an RFP for my own company. We were trying to identify the best website developer for the creation of the BohlsenPR website. It was a lot of fun to approach it in the way I wish all RFP processes would play out – with inclusivity, two-way communication and objectivity.

1. We decided to invite a few people/companies we identified as a potential fit, but we also let it be known that we would accept other proposals from individuals/companies that wanted to participate. Our ultimate goal was to find the best fit for us.

We invited five companies, and we received 11 proposals when all was said and done

2. We gave people the opportunity to ask questions at various times throughout the submission period by offering several open-call times.

 Seven of the eleven companies submitting proposals called and asked questions during these time periods or at arranged times. Several email communications went out reminding those submitting – or wanting to submit – that we’d be happy to provide additional information and answer questions.

 3. As the proposals came in, we had an intern make them unidentifiable. No staff saw a proposal with the submitter’s name during the initial review.

 We did not want to be swayed/influenced by the company’s name or reputation; rather, we wanted to be impacted by the content in the submitter’s proposal.

 4. Two people from the company were given the task of reviewing each and every proposal with a well-defined criteria and ranking system. Each proposal was given at least an hour’s review in which detailed notes were taken. This committee narrowed the field down to three before I even saw them, and only then did we know who the finalists were.

 Then, during deep discussion, we narrowed it down to two and had a one-on-one meeting with each submitter. Ultimately, it was not a simple decision, but having met each company and the person who would act as lead on the account helped us to make a decision.

 5. We provided feedback to the 10 other people/companies who so generously took the time to answer the RFP, letting them know who we chose and why we did not choose them.

We got very positive feedback from most of the companies that did not get the job, thanking us for taking the time to provide the feedback that would be useful for them in their next RFP process.   I don’t know if there is a perfect process for hiring anyone for anything, but this RFP approach seemed as fair as possible – and we even made some new friends along the way.   Now when determining if it makes sense for our company to answer an RFP, I ask myself these questions:

 1.Are we a fit for what is being asked?

2. Can we get more information throughout the process so we can provide the best possible presentation of who we are and how we can meet the client’s needs?

3. Can we do exceptional work for this client?

4. Do they want us to submit a proposal?

5. Do they understand who we are and what we do?

6. Will we learn something from the process, even if we don’t get the gig?

 If I find myself saying, “They’d be foolish not to hire us,” I can assure you we will be submitting a proposal. Just as they need to feel strongly about who they hire, we need to be just as certain. You wouldn’t take a job without meeting your new boss, would you?

Vicki Bohlsen, the President of Bohlsen PR has more than 20 years’ experience in corporate and non-profit media relations and marketing. This includes national and local media placements and the relationships that facilitate them, and expertise in broadcast production, crisis management and media spokesperson training.