The Sundance Kid
One of my favorite movies is “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” Early in the movie, Butch and Sundance are interviewing as armed guards in a mining town. The foreman of the mine asks Sundance to shoot at a coin from a distance of 25 yards or so. Sundance misses, of course, because he cannot “move.” When he does move, he hits the coin twice. “I’m better when I move.”
The typical AP automation RFP process is a lot like shooting at a coin from a distance, and not being able to move. I have been through many RFP’s in my lifetime. I won deals I expected to lose, and I lost deals I expected to win. And sometimes when I did win, I wasn’t even sure I was the best solution!
More often than not, the RFP process is designed to be sterile and hygienic. You don’t touch customer, and the customer does not touch you. Questions are pulled from online sources, developed by outside consultants, or captured through interviews with internal stakeholders. Vendor responses are checkbox or short answer to ensure each RFP can be objectively scored. There is little or no opportunity to extend the requirements in a direction that would be beneficial to the client and the vendor. Follow on and clarification questions receive perfunctory responses from the RFP coordinator.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand and appreciate the need for objectivity and fairness. It’s not the outcome I’m griping over. It’s how you get there.
We’re Better When We Move
Engaging with end users and stakeholders face-to-face, or even over the phone, is how vendors “move.” We learn about hidden needs, unsaid concerns, and wished-for capabilities. We are able to address complicated requirements that don’t lend themselves to checkbox and short answers. We can assuage the concerns of IT without confusing end users.
Customers, too, benefit enormously in the process. They get a sense of the vendor…what they are like, and whether there is a good “match.” They learn about new capabilities that they were not even aware of…capabilities that never made it into the formal RFP…capabilities like a Supplier Portal, embedded analytics or native integration that could tilt the decision toward one vendor while eliminating others.
Through this dialogue and exchange of ideas, both parties become smarter and better equipped to make the best decision. Priorities are reassessed and decisions become rooted in a more expansive set of relevant criteria. When vendors are allowed to move, everybody wins.
Dan Lackner is the Chief Revenue Officer at Nivo1 and a regular contributor to this blog.