Full Disclosure - I do not like the request for proposal process. I could have said it even more dramatically and with more emotion - but that about sums it up. But more than just my feelings, I started to wonder if they are in fact good for business - or are they bad?
Like so many answers - it depends. For example - while I am sure that many TMC's out there hate them as well - a well-crafted RFP should provide a fair level comparison of fees for a travel program and then open enough to allow each responding company to respond on what makes them different from everyone else. It has to be really well written to allow flexibility in many sections which will show the uniqueness of the bidder, but standardized enough to offer the ability to do a level fair comparison.
For us at Topaz, we rarely respond to any RFP's. They are usually not well written and do not provide us the ability to better understand the needs and requirements of the client. We want to know you better so we can provide a solution that meets your needs. For example, we had a client come to us and tell us they wanted an airfare audit - which are happy words to us - and they were ready to not only book and sign the contract, they wanted to pay up front before their budget year ended. It was better and better each time we spoke to them. Then we asked some questions about their program - including about their policy - and we realized an audit was not right for them. It would have been a waste of their money; so we told them and stopped it.
The moral of this story is that if that was an RFP, with no flexibility to work with the client directly, we may have won business that would have been wasteful for them. We might have been too far down the line of implementation to change things. However, because we had a strong relationship with them, they respected us that much more - even today as they grow their business and refine their program, we consider them friends of Topaz.
Finally, there was this story about an RFP gone wild. We responded to the RFP and lost - even after I went against my gut feelings. Something told me this was not for us - but we let this potential client talk us into responding - three separate times - probably only to have us to compare against someone else. But more than that, which can be just a good business practice, this was an RFP with no flexibility, no understanding of the client needs, and in many cases the client not even knowing why they wanted certain unattainable services. We attempted to tell them that parts of this RFP were not possible - and we later learned that others in our industry were talking about doing things which cannot be done. While we do not know why we lost - it made me wonder if our high ethics were to blame - or was it something else.
So while we like to be your supplier - and we want many of you as customers - just know we would rather speak to you about your requirements before you send us an RFP. It just seems like a better way of doing business - for both of us.