I recently received an RFP (Request for Proposal) from a potential client and the client included a criteria of “Complete listing of expenses (no surprise costs)!” I fully understand their need to include this statement. Some of the surprises aren’t completely the fault of the vendor.
First let me look at the client’s view. Very often, too often, when they send out an RFP to any vendor they get an estimate back that A) doesn’t include all of the information that is needed for them to make an informed decision. What they receive is a quote for the cost of the entire estimated job but no details on the breakdown of costs. For most large clients these details are needed for reporting as well as their ability to budget correctly. B) doesn’t include a capability statement that explains why a particular vendor is able to even complete the work. How would the client know that Company X has knowledge of the job being bid? How do they know that the vendor has the resources to even deal with the scope of work? These details are crucial to their ability to do business and as a possible vendor it is my responsibility to provide them with as many details as possible so that if I do win the bid, that there is little or no stress about my ability to complete the requested work.
I don’t hold all the responsibility though. Many RFPs are vague and incomplete. Often the reason for that is the fact that the client wants to see my knowledge of the work proposed. That is understandable and acceptable. At the same time certain details are needed for me to understand the work required. A full scope of work as the client understands it, and/or a detailed explanation of the use of the product or services at the end of the project is huge help. With that detail I can chart the path from beginning to end and that should show the details the client needs to decide on a vendor.
Knowing where you want to be at the end of a project is crucial for both client and vendor. Knowing the need, use and benefit of any product or service helps the client get all that they need out of any vendor they choose to work with. Without it, it is like packing a bag and getting in your car knowing you want to go on vacation but not knowing where you are going.
Using a similar metaphor, if the client knows they want to go to Vermont to go skiing for vacation, as a vendor it is my responsibility to pack their skis. At the same time my client will get nowhere if I don’t put gas in the car too. It is my responsibility to know, plan for, and handle the details. By relating those details my client is able to see on paper that their vacation is exactly what they want planned, and they know that by including the details I am going to ensure they get to where they want to be.
So what if the client doesn’t include the needed information so that I can provide a complete and details response? Again that is where the responsibility is mine. It is my job as a professional to ask the right questions, to ask detailed questions and get the information I need to answer their questions. When I do that, my clients get the results they want and there are no surprises.
Send me an RFP for photography services and let me show you what I mean.