This week’s humorous blog by David Calmonson on the sales process for CTRM software made me think about writing about this topic too. After all, these procurement processes are important and extremely costly for everyone concerned. ComTech has also acted as an advisor in a number of sales processes and so I have seen first hand how it works.
The first thing to note is that these processes are often managed by third-party consultants. The consultants will usually have a template process and can save the customer time by bringing a pre-existing template replete with all the questions one might expect to the table. All that needs to be done to this document is add the customer specific questions and its ready to go. Well, is it? In practice, many of these template RFP’s have been round the block a bit and as a result may contain all kinds of totally irrelevant questions and requests to demonstrate functionality that is not needed at all. This is where the monster RFP document David refereed to often comes from.
Another commonly used approach suffers the very same fault. It may be that the buying company found or borrowed an example RFP and then simply adopted it. They add the specifics of their circumstances but forget to remove anything unnecessary.
Either way, the RFP is not efficient at all. It needs to be thoroughly scrubbed and checked before it is issued to anyone.
People have to make decisions one way or another and so scoring and demos are par for the course. The issue here is to ensure that the scoring actually represents the buyer’s needs. This comes down to weighting of course and making sure that the scoring mechanism is weighted to reflect true priorities. The scoring mechanism will undoubtedly cover all questions asked by the RFP right? So, if that RFP had a bunch of irrelevant questions in it dating back to another time it was used, they get scored as well. Which means that using a template RFP without really being rigorous in validating and scrubbing its content not only wastes time for all concerned but it could in fact lead to a result which is not the best for the company.
I have heard it grumbled that some consultants favor certain vendors – I am sure we all have actually. However, I don’t believe that they do so consciously. But, could it be that their template RFP, built up from working with certain flavors of software over time, accidentally favors a certain outcome? It is a possibility isn’t it and therefore another reason to scrub the template hard before re-using it.
ComTech is occasionally asked to do a pre-selection project and put together a long list for the RFP. In one or two instances, we have also been asked to audit the RFP and the subsequent selection process. In the first instance, since we are analysts and talk with all the vendors, we are perhaps in a unique position to have a better than average idea about who can do what. This means that we can quickly give you the names of the vendors that may be able to suit your requirements – the well-known and the obscure ones. You will know that all possibilities were thought about and considered this way. By having us look over the RFP, we can also identify irrelevant questions and also those that don’t add any real value to the process. We can help cut costs and risks to the project.
Being sat as an analyst, I also get to talk to a lot of sales representatives for different vendors and I can tell you that David’s characterization of the process is one they would all recognize.