Writing a request for a proposal is as much an art as a science.
Providing clear, unbiased buying criteria, creating compelling reasons for vendors to bid on your data center RFP, and ensuring you provide enough time to respond to your competition are some of the fundamental elements technology service providers look for when deciding whether or not to bid. Here are five of the biggest errors we’ve seen data center clients make, and ways you can avoid them.
1. Writing Your RFP with Unfair Bias to a Single Vendor
When a technology vendor looks at an RFP it usually evaluates the opportunity cost based on:
- Can we win this business? Is it worth winning?
- What other business are we pursuing, and can we bid the RFP and still win other business?
- Do we have an existing relationship with the client?
- Does our competition have a relationship with the client?
If a vendor sees messaging in a data center RFP which makes it seem as if the competition has already been won by another vendor, it might choose to no-bid the business.
Though you will likely get several offers to write your RFP from data center service providers, you should write the RFP in a transparent way that doesn’t seem as if it favors any managed service provider.
2. Not Giving Bidders Enough Time to Bid on the RFP
You might need delivery of services to start quickly once you have the budget to do so. You might have been provided some direction to complete a contract quickly and get additional managed storage or server capacity for a new project. If you want to get a reasonable number of proposals, don’t provide a short period of time for vendors to submit their bids.
Resist the temptation to request multiple hard copies of proposals and complex packaging of proposals in an obscure way. Electronic bids can save vendors on printing costs and transportation costs.
3. Difficult Proposal Format
Some government proposals ask vendors to provide technical answers on their response grid, where you have to restate the question they asked, refer to technical documentation in technical manuals, and work within a complex Word template.
When you are writing your RFP, remember that not only does someone have to respond to it, but you have to evaluate proposals and their answers thoroughly. Do everyone a favor and make the RFP easy to answer and easy to review. IT vendors love the classic “Yes, No, Yes with Qualification” chart for technical responses
4. Providing Legal or Financial Terms Which are Potentially Problematic
Have you ever waded through twenty pages of legalese or terms and conditions of an RFP before you could even find out what the client wanted? Always remember that as much as you want to contract for data center services, many customers need to be served. If a potential bidder feels pursuing your business puts them at potential legal or financial risk, they won’t bid.
Fixed bid contracts, unrealistic service level agreement requirements, and other high-risk clauses can make your RFP go into the recycle bin, and a vendor moves on to business pursuits that aren’t as potentially risky.
5. Make Sure the RFP Process Isn’t Just a Market Study
Like the boy who cried wolf, some organizations issue RFPs just to see what products and services are available for future initiatives. Or after the services RFP process is over, they try to renegotiate terms or get vendors to jump through a lot of hoops to get your business. Having a short list of vendors and a “bake-off” of services is one thing, but don’t make vendors go through another round of proposals as a negotiation tactic.
The data center RFP process is an opportunity for a public sector organization, company, or non-profit association to contract with vendors in a way that provides provisions for price, value, and levels of service that are clearly established from the outset. If you are seeking data center services, make sure you craft an RFP which you would bid on if you were in a vendor’s shoes.
What other data center RFP errors have you seen? Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below.
If you're in the data center, mission-critical, or cloud services industries, or you sell to the data center industry, don't miss our weekly update newsletter -- Data Center Sales & Marketing Institute (DCSMI) Update Newsletter. Get notified about new reports, events, podcasts, and blog posts.