Season 06 Episode 8 – Mar 14, 2023  
25:11  Show Notes

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly about RFPs


In this episode Mike explains what an RFP or RFQ is and why they are often used as well as the good, the bad, and the ugly about RFPs.

Show Notes

  • What is an RFP?
  • Inviting to tender
  • Where to find an RFP
  • RFI
  • RFQ
  • The reasons why Mike does not like RFPs
  • is it common for the vendor to be pre-selected in the RFP process?
  • Pros of using an RFP
  • Cons of using an RFP
  • Expectations of RFPs
  • Alternatives to RFPs

Show Links

Accuracy of transcript is dependant on AI technology.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the website 101 podcast, the podcast for people who want to learn more about building and managing websites. I'm Sean Smith, one of our co-hosts and with me as usual is Mike Miller.

Hi, Sean. How you doing? Good, good. And Amanda Lutz. Hey, Sean. Hey, Mike. Hey. Hey. So, today we're going to talk about something that only one third of us have experienced with. And we're going to be talking about RFPs, and Mike is going to be the star of our show

because he's done lots of RFPs. Finally, the star of the show. And Mike, what, since I've been using Wachen initialism, RFP, what is an RFP? Okay, well, an RFP, it stands for Request for Proposal, and it's used all kinds of industries.

You could be building a condo building and still put in an RFP, but for our purposes, of course. It's web projects, new websites and whenever. And it's this situation where a organization, a company, puts together a document saying,

we want a new website. Here are the details. They send it out to people or just put it on the internet for people to find. And they hope that vendors, people like us, will respond and say, I can build your website

and give you a bunch of detail about how they would do it. And then they basically pick one of those people to do the project. That's generally what it is. Okay. So it's almost like a lot of these contractor websites.

It's like Fiverr and other ones that I don't go on. But it sounds like they're just like a collection of RFPs, expecting contractors to go to this one source and just apply to all of the projects.

Yeah, you could say that. I mean, there's also different approaches companies use. Some of them send their RFPs specifically to certain companies, and I think they generally call that submitting to Tender or something like inviting to Tender.

So they would say, okay, I want you, you and. you to reply and tell me how you would address this project. So they'd send it directly to them and not make it public. But other ones, and I think this is probably more common,

they would just put it on their website and on some site like what you just mentioned and say, hey, anyone who's interested, you know, send us something and we'll evaluate it, that kind of thing. Okay.

So Mike, you've mentioned that you've done RFPs before. I don't even know where to look for an RFP other than things like Fiverr or that Amanda mentioned. And I avoid those sites because of all the bad stuff that I've heard.

Can you tell us where we would go and find an RFP? Well, there are a few sites that sort of make their living promoting things like that, There's sites like that where you can create an account and they'll publish them every

day. You can maybe get keywords that you want to send me ones that have to do with this. Sometimes there are sites where you actually pay to get the RFP. There's one that I was considering a while ago and I've pretty much written it off because

they don't like this model. They, you get a free account. If you see it in RFP that looks like a good fit for you, you can pay the company to raise your hand. Meaning, I'm interested. Oh, actually, you don't get the RFP until you do that.

Then they'll send you the RFP. Then if you want to respond, you pay them again, like pay to submit a response. I guess the tradeoff is the companies that are issuing the RFP, they claim that they only get responses through that site.

They're not going to go somewhere. but I don't know, it seems. That reminds me that I actually belong to a site like that, and it might be the one I'm thinking of. Yeah, and there was one that I wanted to reply to,

but the site wouldn't let me log in, and it wouldn't let me reset my password. I emailed support, and support said, well, here's the password reset link. And I said, I never get my reset email from there.

And she's like, well, that's the only thing I can do. And I'm curious, do you not have web developers? That can help you out. Silence. I was like, all right, done. They don't obviously don't want to work with me.

Yeah. Yeah. We're fixed in a problem. Yeah. It could be, I don't know if that's the same thing, but that whole process of like, hey, pay us and we'll let you in on this little thing about, I don't know.

If you're into that stuff, I guess there's a lot of people who make a good living or getting RFPs that way, but I usually don't. Yeah. You reminded me of that. And the only reason I applied was because I saw something specifically related to CRF

CMS. Yeah, I see a mess that we all use. You can also do like a Google search, of course, where you can send you alerts if the words RFP and web development or whatever, but I haven't found that to be too lucrative personally.

Yeah, so it's not like I should be clear about this, by the way, is that it's not like I get them all the time and that's how I get most of my business, that's not the case, but I have over the years

responded to quite a few of them and find them in various ways. So I guess my various ways, do you most like go looking for the RFPs or have you been like one of the, one of the companies, one of the organizations where they reach out and say, hey, reply to this RFP for us.

For me, it's been a combination of that. So, I have had clients that I've worked with in the past say, hey, we have a new project coming out. Do you want to submit a response to it? And I would say, yeah, and they'd send me the thing. That's happened. In fact, it's happened recently.

Other times I just find them through various, I work with a lot of nonprofits, as you know, and there are a lot of organ. websites that are like a, I don't know what you call it, but like a collection of nonprofit

information that they refer to different nonprofits around the country. And often people put their RFPs up there, like nonprofits would say, hey, can you promote our RFP? So I might find it that way.

I've done, I've found some through that, that sort of funnel before, but I've had them sent directly to me as well. So something you said makes me think I submitted an RFP and wanted, because I have a contact

that left one company, they moved to another one, emailed me. Yeah. And so, hey, we're building a new website. We're asking like, we're gonna look at two or three proposals. Can you send one in? Mm-hmm.

And I did, and I got it, and I'm just waiting for the deposit and starting next week. Yeah, well, good. That's great. And it sounds like an RFP. Yeah, they didn't specifically say RFP, so I'm learning stuff today.

And that's the other thing. There's a bunch of, you know, initialisms, whatever. There's RFI is one, request for information, sometimes that's the first step where they say, you know, tell us about your organization.

whatever, there's RFQ, which can actually mean two different things. It could be a request for quote where they're talking about pricing. It could be request for qualifications where they're talking about, you know, are you an

organization qualified to do the project we're working on? And anyway, they usually, in my experience, culminate to this RFP where they say, okay, here's the thing we want, send it out. So that sounds like it's a multi-step approach.

How often does that happen? In my experience, it's pretty rare. Really? is just straight to the RFP for the projects that I work with. They're not enormous projects, but they're not small either.

For ones that are like up in the half million dollars budget range, I'm not sure. Maybe they go through a bunch of those rounds, but mine, it's usually just the RFP, the stuff that I work with. So in our non recording sessions, Mike has said that he's not a fan of RFPs

despite going for them for sometimes. Why are you not a fan of RFPs? What are the disadvantages basically? Okay, I've got a, yeah, you're right. I'm not generally a fan. I do sometimes respond to them.

Sometimes I don't. If I feel like I might have a real big advantage, I would respond. And really even that, it's because I've sort of streamlined my process for, you know, creating an RFP. Because normally it takes hours and hours

to put one together. They can be 50 page documents or something. So, God. Yeah. You kind of have to really think it's worth your time and your effort. And so I've sort of streamlined my process

so it doesn't take that long. on. But I don't always go for them. And the reasons, there's a bunch of different reasons. I guess the main one is this whole workflow where the client says, here is a two page

document that says what we want. And can you give it to us? I don't think that's how web builds should go. And I'm sure you two would agree with me. I think it should be more of a conversation. You know, it should be. Yeah, like I've got these. Here's our, let's say

it's an existing site, they're rebuilding. That's often what it is. You know, we've got these problems with our site. how would you solve them? And then the web developer would come up with some suggestions,

whatever, for possible solutions. And also the developer might present some things that the client may not have even thought of. Like, oh, you have this feature on your site? Why don't we do x, y, z?

And then, oh, that's great. So that kind of conversation doesn't happen when you're going through an RFP process. It's just like the client shouting into the void, and then vendors responding saying, oh, I can do it like this.

And that's usually where it ends before they've hired someone. Totally. So I just, I don't think it's a very efficient workflow for building a website. That's one reason. One other question, I might be a little bit out of order here, but I've often heard that

RFPs are done in a way that the client has already chosen who they want to work with, but for bylaw reasons in the company, whatever, they have to put it out publicly. Is this something you're aware of or how common is that?

I think it's it is common. I've been on both sides of that to be quite honest with you. I'll just admit it right now I've had clients say look we have to put this out and as in an RFP But would you want to work with us and it's been highly sort of?

Implied that if you're interested then you've got it even though the board. It's usually a board that above directors who say you have to put this out and You know Give everyone a chance I guess and I've also been on the on the other side at least I think I have where

I've had reason to believe I think they're going to just work with this person that's built their other site that I can see on the internet. It says it's built by that person, you know, and it's like, why wouldn't they hire that

person again? Oh, it's probably the board needs them to go through this process. So sometimes that does happen and it's really, really unfortunate because it's a waste of people's time, right? If you have no intention of equally considering people, then why make them go through that

process. It's like when a company puts up a job posting, but they know that they're just going to hire internally. Yes, exactly. They say that they're doing their due diligence, but... It's a formality.

Yeah. Yeah. That's another reason, you know, RFP may not be the great, the best way to go about building one of these projects, you know, getting it started. So we touched on some of the negatives.

What are in your experience some of the pros of using an RFP? I guess one would be you can, the vet, the, sorry, the client who's issuing the RFP can learn a lot about how a web project would go. So if I am, you know, an organization, I put out an RFP.

And I very often they have no idea how a good quality website with a decent budget that will go on for months. They don't know how that process should go at all. But if they put out in our fee and people have responded and they get this extensive document saying,

hey, we're going to go through this process. This is our approach. You know, we're going to start off with this consultation meeting and then we'll go out to this. And they suddenly learn a lot about how building a website tends to work for a professional organization.

So they can learn that kind of stuff from the vendors. Amanda, I see you're giggling, what do you think about it? Because I'm sure that nobody ever goes into something like this with bad intentions,

but I just keep thinking of all of the people who do have bad intentions and don't know what they're doing, and they put it in RFP just to get all of the responses and some are gonna be really detailed.

And like you said, like fully describe all of the steps that should happen and maybe the clients like, oh, I didn't know I was supposed to do that, great. They still pick like the cheapest, like the least expensive.

And then they like force this poor person to like go through all of these extra steps that they read about that they thought, Oh, it was a really great idea that this person with the cheapest price doesn't have the budget to do.

Yep. Or the experience to realize that. Yeah. Just generally when you're the cheapest person, you're the least experienced or at the bottom of the experience ladder. Yeah. Another benefit would be they can learn how different companies.

run projects. The truth is a lot of different companies do things differently. You three, like you two and the three of us, I'm sure we all run our projects very differently from each other. If we had the same client on the same project, we'd do it differently.

I read a mountain cell. Yeah. So you could learn through how they submit their proposal, like, oh, this is how your company does it. And that could be a benefit. Maybe you'll like the way this company has

illustrated how they're going to go about doing everything. So you just get a better feel for the industry and how it works. That's enough. benefit they can get. Okay. From the perspective of the web developer, one benefit of an RFP would

be that you don't need to sell the client on doing the work. Presumably if they've issued an RFP, then they're committed to doing a redesign or whatever it is. You don't have to sell them on making that happen. You just have to sell them on hiring you to do the work instead of somebody

else. So that would be a benefit for the web developer. If you're enjoying our content, find us over on YouTube. Search for website 101 podcast where you can like, subscribe, and follow. So Amanda was saying maybe you learned something from one thing, but you hired the cheapest

guy to do those things, whatever. Another benefit that can, or sorry, a drawback that can happen for the vendors respond to the RFPs is very often in my experience, almost always. They have a period where they say...

If anyone has any questions about the RFP, send them in by this date, and we will share all of the answers to all of the questions with all of the respondents. Now, on the surface, that sounds great, right? It sounds like, okay, with three of us are going to respond to an RFP,

we all have different questions. We send it in. They answer them all, send everyone's question to everyone. But I have a problem with that because I feel like I might have some cool little trick, like some technique that I use in my project workflow. That's a really beneficial thing.

to make a website go successfully. And now suddenly, Sean, you're getting the answer to my question. So maybe you're going like, oh, I must remember to put that into my future proposals that I submit.

While you're explaining that, it's like, this is great. I should take advantage of this and learn. Yeah, and allow us, like, more novice respondents to learn things from their competitors that the competitors may now want.

them to know. So that whole question answer thing, I'm not a big fan of to be honest. But I would also think that if this isn't your first rodeo, if you've replied to RFPs before, if you have the little trick for doing the project, you're not going to ask a question

about that. Like you might include that as part of your RFP to like stand out from the rest, but you're not just going to ask that general question. The answer is going to be shared with everyone else.

It could be like that, but I think it could even be, you know, you might get someone asked because very often there's no budgets. It includes it, including these, because the client, say the client, has no idea what

they should be paying for this thing. So they kind of use the RFP process to determine what should we be paying for our website. And maybe one of the questions that gets asked is, what is your budget?

And it might be fleshed out as like, are you expecting to pay $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, and up, and then maybe another vendor who was responding was planning to charge $8,000. And they suddenly have learned, oh, these guys are going to charge like $30 and above, then

I'm charging too little. So even something like that, and maybe they are charging too little, but maybe they don't offer that value That's thirty thousand dollar value, so they should be charging eight thousand

But now they know oh I'm not gonna fit in with the competitors unless I crank it up So it can get really murky when everybody knows everybody else's questions and answers no matter what they are I think

sidebar RFPs don't include budgets And very often they don't and I have turned down RFPs before like I've refused to respond to them because they don't Have I now no longer reply to an RFP if it doesn't

have a budget in it. Yeah, like if you're putting in like 50 pages of work like you said earlier and you don't know what the budget is, like what if their budget's 10,000 but you think it's a $25,000 of site then you just wasted all that time. Yeah, to put out a 50 page document.

Well, but that was my question. Do the clients who are putting out the RFPs, do they expect like a cost estimate in the RFP response? They almost always do. They'd say include fees and sometimes they even say itemize the fees. So you got it.

CMS is going to cost this much. The design phase will cost this much, and they want you to break it down like that, which I also don't like. But yeah, sometimes they use the RFP as a means of evaluating what should we be paying

for this, which, as we said before on the show, I don't think that's the way you should go about it. The point is you get what you pay for, so you need to decide what are you comfortable paying for your website.

If I said I'll do it for $5,000, maybe you'd say, sure, if I said I'll do it for $100,000, maybe you'd say, no, that's way too much. Somewhere, if we kept narrowing those numbers, eventually you'd get to a point where they'd say,

yeah, I'd pay that much for a product I'm happy with. That's your budget. And every client should know that before they do an RFP. I imagine that clients are thinking to themselves, if we give a budget range, I'd say $15,000 to $20,000,

everybody's going to put their proposal at the $19,500. But that's what they should. And then it becomes the question there is, what are they giving you for that price? You no longer have to evaluate them based on the price they're offering because they're all the same.

Basically, you just now evaluate them on what are you getting for that money? is what you should be evaluating. Yeah, I like that idea. Yeah, that's the way I see it. I think it would also help weed out people who are like,

well, this is, I can't do a site for less than 30,000, so I'm even gonna bother. Or my average site price is like $9,000. Why would I apply for a site that's 20,000? I can't do that. So out of my skill level or something.

Yeah, exactly. Yeah, like we said, I think we had episodes about budgets before. So go check those, maybe we'll put them in the show notes. So Mike then, in your opinion, if there, I mean, we've talked about some of the good

things that, you know, can come out of RFPs and obviously a lot of negatives, what could be some alternatives instead of releasing this request for proposal? I think a really good approach would be to just look around on the web, especially if

you're in an industry like, like I say, I work with a lot of nonprofits, other nonprofits that are. in your sector. Have a look around and see, check out their websites. And if there's any website, I know it's not as simple as,

do you like their website? But if you do really think their website is very effective as you navigate through it, give them a call and say, hey, did you mind if I ask, can we do you work with for your website?

I think it's really great. Actually, before that step, say, are you happy with your website? And do you feel like it's easy to manage? Just do you like the look of it? Is it effective? Or is it accomplishing your goals?

conversions, all that stuff. And if they are happy with it, ask them if they wouldn't mind sharing who they worked with, because maybe that person is really good at working in your sector and can provide you with a good product accordingly, right? So that's one way, just ask your,

your, not competitors, your colleagues in your industry and see, see how they hate, they do it. And another option would be to just look around on Google for certain keywords, you know, web development or web developers or agencies.

non-profit, health focused, whatever, whatever your sector is, look around for web developers who focus on that type of stuff. And maybe you'll find some people go through their portfolios on their sites and find out,

oh, yeah, they do a lot of good work in my industry. Maybe I should call them up and just call them directly and ask them some questions. That would be a good way to do it, I think, rather than just, as I say, yelling into the

ether and hoping the right people respond. That sounds good to me. Earlier, I worked a lot with agencies, and it's very possible that the agencies had to deal with the RFPs. But, you know, if I'm working on a bunch of different projects with the agency, I'm just

going to keep working with them on all of the other projects that they get in. I don't actually care how they get the projects in. Just, you know, tell me what to code next. And that makes me very happy.

I guess, Sean, you work with agencies too, right? Yeah, I'm with Amanda on that. Agencies, long-term relationship, a little bit of word of mouth. But as I mentioned earlier, I got asked to submit an RFP, which I didn't realize was

an RFP. of P at the time. And then a couple of professional networks has also been very helpful for me. So I'm in the craft partners page. And then there's two other craft professional listings.

And I've gotten inquiries from both of them in the past. Not very often, but I do find that it's worth being on there. Yeah, nice. Yeah, job listings, I guess, is another popular way people. It's like a mini version of an RFP, I suppose.

They don't expect a full proposal in response. So those things are specific to craft. So those kind of clients that reach out to me are looking for somebody because they already have a craft site and they need help with it,

either their developers too busy or the relationship soured or something. They need some help. Yeah, yeah. Cool. All right, well, thank you for listening everybody. Be sure to check out our YouTube.

channel by the way. Search for website one on one podcast on YouTube. And by the way, if you'd like any of the videos, hit the thumbs up button. And that really helps us out. And if you don't like the videos, just flip your phone upside down, you'll see a thumbs down button,

just smash that and you'll be good. Oh, tricky. Tricky. Yeah. One last shout out. If there's a topic you'd like us to address, please email us. We or leave a comment on a video. We would love to address topics that you are interested in.

Okay. Thanks for listening. Bye. Bye. Later. The website 101 podcast is hosted by me, Amanda Lutz. You can also find me online at And by me, Mike Mela, find me online at or on socials at Mike Mela.

I'm Sean Smith, your cohost. You can find me online at my website, and LinkedIn at caffeinecreations.

Have a question for Sean, Mike, and Amanda? Send us an email.