The RFP - for so long the standard approach to buying IT equipment and services....is dead. Or at least on its last legs. The world has moved on, buyers and sellers have evolved and relationships have taken over.
As the balance of power seems to have tipped in the favor of the buyer (with engagement with the sales team coming much later in the typical procurement cycle), the sellers are expecting a deeper and more strategic relationship. When the call from the buyer comes - when they are ready to buy, they may feel they have built up a certain knowledge of the vendor's offering and the company's approach. The issue is that the relationship is only half-built - to the individual salesperson or their management team, they still need to get to know the buyer - what their need is, what budget they have, and how the decision will get made.
Getting a formal document from a stranger isn't going to work. We recently conducted a survey of IT sales professionals. Interestingly, the vast majority (over 50%) would not complete an RFP unless they already had a relationship with the customer. Think about that. The idea that an RFP can be issued to a number of IT vendors with an expectation that they will respond is no longer applicable. It will rarely happen. Furthermore, there is a chance that your 'preferred' vendor will just refuse to bid.
IT vendors - particularly the brightest and best, are in demand. They get inundated with responses to work with them. They are not able to invest the time and effort (completing a standard RFP can take a team of 3 or 4 people a week or more) to gamble on an RFP response when there is a limited relationship with the buyer. There is also no place for long, complicated, excessively detailed spreadsheets - putting those to a vendor is a surefire way of having them decline to bid. What vendors expect is a simple statement of requirements. What is your challenge? What are you looking to solve? What would the successful solution need to do? If they can see what they are aiming at and are able to put their position across to meet your requirement - that is all they really want.
At Viewpoint Analysis, we believe we have a better approach. One which creates an open relationship between the buyer and the seller. It speeds up the process, reduces friction, and significantly increases the likelihood that the vendors take part in your process. We call it the Meet My Need service.
Meet My Need revolves around creating a problem statement and issuing the challenge to the vendors that can meet it. It may be between 2 and 5 pages long - that's all. We level the playing field by creating simplicity. All the vendors get to see your challenge. They all get invited to a supplier call to ask questions in an open forum. They then come back with their response. The buyer can still shortlist if they want to get into a deeper level of detail - but the process has been swift, transparent, and fair to all. We also find that the responses are exceptionally creative as the shackles of spreadsheet questions have been removed. The vendor is able to objectively look at your challenge - and how they would meet that need in the best possible way.
The RFP is dead - there is a better way - we believe the better way is the Meet My Need approach.