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Ensure a Positive Candidate Experience When Hiring Contingent Talent Remotely

As digitization, coupled with the global pandemic, propels contingent hiring online and with more individuals relying on employer reviewer sites to evaluate businesses, delivering a positive[...]

March 10, 2021

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With RFPs, Sharing Is Caring

Last week, I talked about the value of tracking RFPs as an unconventional source of big data. Sure, there’s nothing overly exciting about RFPs, but in our industry they’re a big part of the sales process. And you’re going to start seeing a lot more of them as we enter “RFP season,” which kicks off now and lasts through September. This article isn’t for those poor souls who will be burning the midnight oil to construct elaborate proposals under tight deadlines. This is for the authors of the RFPs. So here’s a bit of advice from veterans in the field: if you want the best information from your bidders, you must be willing to give them the best information you have. Transparency is key. And sharing is caring.

Quid Pro Quo

“If I help you, Clarice, it will be turns with us too. Quid pro quo. I tell you things, you tell me things… Quid pro quo. Yes or no?” -- Hannibal Lecter

What does this quote, taken in the very confined context of a scene from “Silence of the Lambs,” have to do with staffing RFPs? Well, the relationship between a serial killer and a fledgling FBI agent sometimes seems less dysfunctional, more productive, and more honest than many RFPs.

Let me break this bizarre analogy down. Here, Doctor Lecter represents the vendor. Agent Starling plays the role of the organization issuing the RFP. See, this is Starling’s case, tasked to her by superiors in the agency. They recognize her potential to evolve and succeed -- to climb their ladder. They have faith that she can procure the expert resources that will allow the agency to deliver on its commitments. And she holds most of the cards here; it’s her case to lose. However, the doctor possesses something Starling really needs: expertise, insight, and the ability to guide her down the winning path. It’s his only trump card.

If Starling’s not willing to be honest with him and share, he has no reason to reciprocate. He’s not going anywhere. If the young agent walks away, she stands to lose more than Doctor Lecter’s attention.

Whether you’re a hiring manager seeking an MSP or an MSP scouting for the best suppliers, your RFP was issued to address a pressing business need. Those pain points torment you, not the vendor -- just as Clarice Starling’s imperative to locate and capture a dangerous predator have little bearing on Hannibal Lecter. He’ll respond only because he believes he can improve his own situation by helping her. She possesses scant leverage with which to influence him, other than to make a case for mutual cooperation that’s compelling enough to gain his participation and invest in her cause. And in order to help, Doctor Lecter has simply asked her to share information.

Transparency Matters

Your interaction with vendors at this point is really no different. When bidders open your RFP, they must understand the background and the mutual benefits immediately.

It is here, in the preamble or executive summary of your RFP, where you make or break the deal with potential suppliers. The only way to achieve your end goal is through transparency, reciprocity and sharing program data, uncomfortable though that may be. This process doesn’t generally bode well as a unilateral endeavor. The exchange should be quid pro quo. Otherwise, the rest of your RFP can become meaningless.

When you issue your request, it’s wise to include all relevant program details in your synopsis to bidders. You should have received executed Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) back from the vendors you invited to participate. So no worries, right? If not, you should distribute some NDAs.

  • DO send out mutual NDAs to all prospects prior to releasing the RFP. Mutual NDAs protect your interests and those of your bidders. An NDA also removes any objections a privately held vendor may concoct to justify withholding information you need.
  • DON’T issue unilateral NDAs. Honestly, you’ll come off crooked, and savvy vendors may just walk away. You could be losing out on partnering with an intelligent, ethical, and risk-averse supplier partner. Also be aware that vendors who eagerly execute such agreements are desperate for business. Desperation may lead to a vendor undercutting the pricing of all other bidders, but it can signal a relationship that’s doomed to fail. And you could be the one playing janitor with the mess.

Here’s why disclosure and transparency matter: vendors can’t create account team structures, staffing plans, implementation schedules, solution designs, and competitive (or even ballpark) pricing without knowing spend, volumes, locations, worker categories, and so on. If you withhold this information, you prevent proposal teams from doing their jobs. The bids you’ll receive back will be hundreds of pages of guesses. You’ll be disappointed. Your superiors will be disappointed. Vendors will quickly lose interest.

Essential Details to Include in Your RFP

The more forthcoming you can be with crucial details, the fewer vendor questions you’ll have to answer. You can put that in the win column right away. I mean, you just spent weeks writing an RFP. Do you really want to pull another late night responding to requests for clarification? To avoid this nightmare, be sure to summarize, at minimum, the following details. Make them prominent. Include them in the first pages of the document. It’s not so much a matter of whetting appetites as it is giving vendors a reason to engage.

  • Total program spend.
  • Spend by job category.
  • Job categories you need filled, even if they’re not covered in your existing program
  • Spend and worker volume by location.
  • All locations truly in scope for the program -- not what you think might be covered in some indeterminate future or are adding to entice participation.
  • Outlying spend (in scope, nobody wants to bother with business they can’t touch): SOW/project-based contractors, non-billed workers, independent contractors/freelancer, et al.
  • The number of suppliers currently providing services and the number needed (i.e., augmentation or rationalization).
  • Whether or not you have incumbents, especially those who shall remain engaged.
  • Your real pain points, the actual drivers of this request.
  • The decision makers and executive sponsors for the program.
  • Specific legal, regulatory or compliance considerations a successful vendor must meet.
  • The projected start date for implementation.
  • Whether third-party tools (e.g., VMS, ATS, etc.) will be used or have been previously chosen.
  • Integration or interface requirements are needed between those tools and your existing systems, if at all applicable.
  • Communication protocols during the RFP process: who to contact, deadlines for questions, a date at which point the process “goes silent,” etc.

Steal Our Stuff and Avoid the Headaches

RFP season doesn’t have to be a time of year that everyone dreads. Make your life a little easier and jump start the process with our RFP toolkit. It’s free, so why not take a gander?



Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley thought leader, speaker, motivator, and the visionary behind the groundbreaking Crowdstaffing ecosystem. Blending vision, technology, and business skills, he is transforming the talent acquisition landscape and the very nature of work. Prior to launching Crowdstaffing, Sunil honed his skills and experience as a business leader for companies such as IBM, EMC, and Symantec. "We need to think exponentially to mindfully architect the future of humanity, civilization, and work. When we collaborate and work together, everyone prospers."
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