What You Owe Vendors Who Respond to Your RFP

By Deane Barker

Some People Still Get It, How To Let Vendors Down The Right Way: I loved this post from Jon Kee over at Ektron about how they lost a deal and what happened next.

[…] I hate losing. And after this effort, I am disappointed that we weren’t selected. However, two things happened that made it a little less painful.

First, the CIO, whom I greatly respect, took the time to call and explain their decision. He explained their process, where they saw differences among the solutions, and what was most important to them.

[…] Then, I got a call this week from their Web Manager. She knew that the CIO had already called and told me that we’d lost. She didn’t have to call.

We too lost a heart-breaker of a deal recently. By my estimate, we had $10,000 into the response, which involved three people flying to Austin, Texas for a day.

What hurt is that I thought we had it locked up. When I left the client’s office on a very hot day in May, I felt as strongly about that deal as I have about any deal.

Six weeks later, they pulled the rug out from under us in a short, four-sentence email:

Unfortunately, we did not select Episerver as our solution.

It hurt. I was depressed for weeks after. Like I talked about recently, I put my heart and soul into these things.

I contacted the client and asked him for an “exit interview,” as Jon referred to it. He agreed, and that took some of the sting off. I got him for 20 minutes on the phone, and got to ask him questions about the deal and where we went wrong. I was hoping that there was some misunderstanding or external factor that led to us losing it, but it turned out that we just plain got beat. It happens that way sometimes.

If the client hadn’t agreed to the call, I think I would have been a bit upset. The fact is, responding to an RFP costs real money (hint: write good ones), and with that much invested, I almost think he owed us the call. Of course, he doesn’t owe us anything, technically, but to deny us the right to ask questions would have been exceptionally poor form, when we put so much into it.

The bottom line is this: when you ask a vendor to respond to an RFP, you are asking for a commitment from that vendor. Yes, it’s a gamble for that vendor, but you are getting something too – multiple pitches help you get perspective on your project, and without a pitch, picking a tool would be harder.

In exchange for this commitment, do the losing vendor a favor and help them understand why they didn’t make it. It’s small payback, but it’s something, and it really helps take the sting off.

This is item #77 in a sequence of 356 items.

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