Request For Quotation

To be or not to be. To bid or not to bid. There’s two quotes to start with!

20th July or maybe 20th December. These were two of my favorite dates when I was selling full time. These were the typical dates when that email (or, in the dim and distant, that courier delivered package) would arrive. And why not? Why on earth should sales guys enjoy a pleasant summer holiday or a relaxed Xmas break like everyone else!


First thing to look for – the return date. Sometimes even that wasn’t clear cut. ‘Please return two printed copies, one unpriced, one on CD one by email and one by carrier pigeon by 11.00AM on January 3rd’. Great. I’ll look forward to responding the 700 technical, 525 non-technical, 473 functional, and 168 non-functional questions together with supplying 10 reference sites, CVs, high level, medium level and low level project plans, recruitment policy, health and safety policy, security policy, dish-washer rotation policy, social evening out planning policy, and the 15 tab Excel pricing matrix, before everyone gets back to serious work in the New Year. And I’ve got till December 22nd to ask any questions (which is presumably when the buyer ‘breaks up’ for the holidays). Or alternatively you can log into our portal where you’ll get even more confused….

And of course, that’s not the end of it…or the beginning of it. There was probably an initial ‘RFI’ to narrow down the vendor list to say 6 or 7 (which is the pre-RFQ stage). This is the fun bit where the vendor provides such hard-to-come-by information about themselves, such as address, phone number and website – and denies any criminal activity appertaining to the directors. But it’s still takes a while to complete.

Once the vendors have completed their responses, the prospective client, or quite often the consultancy organization that has possibly charged the client a considerable fee for this new version of War and Peace, will review the responses.

Then a bizarre type of scoring event takes place. One assumes it is performed in a rational manner but sometimes it seems something akin to the scoring for the Eurovision Song Contest*, from some of the results that I’ve witnessed over the decades.

*For those readers from outside of wider Europe, this is a contest to select the ‘best song of the year’ from the European Union. The participating singers / bands are almost always totally unknown to anyone other than their parents. The country from where the winning entrant is based hosts the subsequent year’s contest. It seems this is a costly affair and most countries don’t want to win. Also, the UK never gets more than two votes. That’s not just because the entry is awful – I guess after Brexit that tally will be halved!!

But back to the RFQ. So when the 6 or 7 participants get reduced to ‘the preferred vendors**’ there are often a whole set of additional clarification questions. Obviously the first 5,836 questions just weren’t enough. **This may be any number between 1 and (the number on the RFQ vendor list) -1. For sanity’s sake I used to assume it was probably 3 or maybe 2. The list is highly secretive. I have never witnessed a member of the vendor selection committee carrying the list onto a train from where he/she and it could be photographed. That’s despite spending many a day sitting on a station platform, just in case. But usually, by now, somehow, you knew who you were up against or you really weren’t worth your salary.

Next stage is the ‘beauty parade’. I’m astonished in this era of political correctness, that this expression is still permitted…Of course, it isn’t a talent contest – in the traditional sense. Actually, often in any sense! It is more like the Spanish Inquisition (which I was never expecting, of course)

The day usually consists of a ‘scenario based’ software demonstration, run through of the 5,836 questions in case the clarification exercise didn’t clarify the already detailed responses, a discussion on project implementation, commercial discussion…wait a minute – wasn’t this already in the RFQ response…did anyone ever read it…??? Sometimes I wasn’t too sure by the type of questions that came up!

And so it goes on. The beauty parade whittles the 3 down to 2 and often one vendor is assigned ‘preferred vendor’ status. This means they’re in pole position, but there is a standby organization who is used to ensure the preferred vendor doesn’t get too complacent – particularly from a commercial perspective. Finally, there are reference calls then contract negotiations.

I’ve had a go at assessing how much this costs overall. I’ve tried to estimate the cost to the buying organization (internal and consultancy) and the costs for all the participating vendors. It obviously costs more for those who progress to the end stages with the highest cost for the company who comes second (as the winner can offset the cost against the project – Wow – that’s a good idea!)

I am assuming 15 vendors submit an RFI followed by the process and number of organizations described above.

Approximate cost is £88,000. And I have been quite conservative in my salary estimates.

It strikes me that there should be a more cost effective and less stressful way of selecting a software solution. Sadly, joking apart, it doesn’t even guarantee the best product for the requirement – but it’s awfully difficult to step back from this decision having invested so much time and resource.

So what represents a better way of making this business critical decision that the buyer will be left with for typically 5 – 7 years?

Pay me £88,000 and I’ll tell you!!

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