The Power of the Right Secrets

Throughout my career, I've been amazed by how often RFPs delivered to whatever agency I happen to be working for at the time, have made me nearly suicidal. It all comes down to the writer of the RFP copying, without thinking, previous approaches.

For example, whatever questions are asked by one of the participants are shared with all the participants. Why? You can tell far more from a person's question than from their answers. If you are on a date and the lady were to ask, "How much money do you make? What do you drive? What's the square footage of your home?" You have just learned an important lesson about the values of this person. The questions should never be shared with everyone. Never, ever, ever ever!

On the other hand, companies going through an RFP process almost never reveal who the competitors are. Again, why? Okay, here's another analogy. Imagine a football team practicing all week without being able to know who they are playing against. Would that game be one of the great clash of the titans. No, it would be mediocre football at best. Knowing the competing team allows for effective practice and preparation. The coach can watch game videos, look for weakness and plan a strategy. It makes both teams better by knowing the competition.

The point of an RFP is to ferret out the difference between the participants. By knowing who's on the field, an agency can point out the differences. If they are jerks about, well, you didn't want to work with jerks anyway, did you?

The truth is, this is a relationship business. The best process is to quit sending out RFPs all together. Instead pick the three agencies you might want to work with. Set up a half-day meeting with each. Give them the assignment of leading you through a creative brainstorming session. Then pick the agency. You will learn more, and know if they are fun to work with.

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