In the brave new world of RFPs, the first meaningful dialogue between the client and a prospective consultant happens at the interview stage. Unfortunately, many of the RFP processes make this optional which is, in my opinion, the other major trouble with RFPs. And when there is an interview, it is usually structured which robs the client of a chance to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the consultant.
Developing an effective working relationship between a consultant and their client is about more than deliverables – it’s about fit. And the depersonalization of the procurement process makes it harder and harder on both sides to assess the quality of the fit. For example, can I as a consultant understand the frustration of my prospective client with a challenging management issue by reading a document that is posted for public consumption ? Where in this process does the client get to express their reservations about a particular situation to assess whether the consultant can or will respond is a way that aligns with the culture of the organization?
By making relationship building secondary to describing deliverables and setting out work plans before the individuals involved have even met, the RFP process makes it harder for all of us – consultants and clients – to do our very best work together.