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Any pointers on how to identify clients already in tank with another vendor? Being overly specific in the RFP and demanding the exact features a vendor has is a clear giveaway but I am wondering if there are any other signs.

I am new to this RFP business.

We get on the phone before we respond to expensive RFPs, and there are questions you can ask (incumbent vendors, past experience with vendors, is there a formal requirement for the RFP, or do they genuinely want real proposals, etc).

On "real" RFPs, especially if you have a good shot, you'll find the purchaser you talk to is accomodating; they'll set aside time for calls to answer questions, and they'll do a good job with your Q&A submission (as a general rule, real RFPs have Q&A phases, though note that you never know whether your Q's are going to other vendors too).

There is an old negotiating trick a bizdev guy taught me once, which is, if you want to figure out whether a deal is real or whether the other side is just wanking, figure out a reason to schedule a meeting on a Saturday. If the deal is big and the other side is serious, they'll do it. Similar idea here, although less aggressive.

If your firm's way of handling the RFP process is to simply pick up the forms off some website, mail them in, and hope, then yes, I can see how the RFP process would upset you.

That's great advice. Thank you!

If the RFP is being issued by a government agency, assume that the answer is always 'yes.'

Personally, the only reason I'd ever recommend responding to [a public-sector] RFP is if it's a hoop you need to jump through in order to formalize a deal that's already been effectively struck.

If anything I think you're probably underestimating the extent to which GSA-style RFPs are rigged. I tag-teamed a bunch of times with our FedGov sales guy at the last company I was at, and we closed deals at the Pentagon and elsewhere, and (a) the stories you hear are ridiculous (like the companies that pay, say, an Inuit to be on the board so they can get some obscure diversity credit), and (b) even our company, which had multiple tens of millions of dollars in both funding and topline revenue at the time, had to work through a subcontracting arrangement.

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