In some industries tenders/RFP’s are not unusual, in others they are the norm, but it seems that the economy has just produced that many more. This sure takes the fun out of selling, and I am not sure it gets the best results for the buyers either.
What got me thinking about this were two different events over the last couple of weeks that really bring into question the need for tenders in the purchase of some things.
I understand in certain instances tenders are the way to go, question of governance for some; in the case of governments or agencies there is the question of transparency. Although often it brings more murkiness, and process doesn’t assure the right decision at all.
The first event that got me thinking was reading about a COO who was relieved because he awarded contracts to vendors with out the tender process. In a rare bit of real journalism, they looked into some of the contracts awarded, and found that not only were they awarded to viable companies, but because prices were negotiated, they found that costs were lower than similar deals that were awarded through tenders. He was fired not because of the result, but for process, or not following it.
Again, I understand the importance of policy and following the rules (even when they are stupid or unnecessary), but isn’t one of the reasons you pay executives the big bucks is to make decisions? While tenders level the playing field, this cuts both ways. While it does allow for (potentially) fair comparisons, input from leading providers without bias, personal or other. But it also opens the door other issues not the least of which is a costly inefficient process that by many accounts doesn’t remove the impact of relationships or bias. The old saying is that RFP’s are written by one of the 3 C’s, Committee, Consultant or Competitor, none of which assure or make a fair selection.
The second instance was closer to home; I had been pointed to a company that was struggling to fill their pipeline consistently and were behind vs. quota. I cold called and made an appointment with the VP of Sales; we had a good conversation, he liked the work we had done with other companies and was man enough to admit they definitely needed help. I recommended a next step, but he told me he would take what I discussed, he would meet with other providers, the go to RFP.
Are you kidding me? I mean I don’t expect to win every time, I don’t expect to impress or meet the need of every decision maker, but this guy is no decision maker. What kind of VP of Sales needs to go to tender to pick a program to help his team to prospect better? I can see if this was HR, but a VP of Sales, maybe his teams are taking their prospecting activities to tender each day. Again, he is paid well to lead, set strategy and ensure execution. Based on what I saw it is n wonder they are in the shape they are in, after all where is the leadership?
Seems to me that the ability to make decisions is becoming a somewhat of a lost art. Leaders, who are paid to lead and make decisions, are more comfortable covering their ass through consensus, or hiding in a crowd. They involve more people than ever in the decision process, some who should not be part of the process to begin with, (more on that soon). Beyond the contradiction in a VP of Sales needing a tender to select a training program, is the fact that it is a no win scenario, if the program works, well the sales consensus committee can take the credit. If it fails, he as the VP of Sales takes the heat and the door. Sounds a lot like politics, nes pas?
What’ in Your Pipeline?