RFPs ask questions. The hope is that bidders will answer those questions. Yet, somehow, what is submitted is often off-topic.
Here’s an imaginary interaction that illustrates the point . . .
“How old are you?”
“I’m glad you asked. I studied at the University of Alberta and the University of Saskatchewan, graduating with a BA in Political Science and an MBA, respectively. My work experience includes university-level teaching, marketing research, management consulting, and proposal development. I’ve written a book on the latter topic.”
If this were a conversation, the asker would be looking a bit blank and wondering (likely silently) if their microphone were on.
In Proposal Land, this sort of interaction happens all the time. The client asks a question, the bidder responds with anywhere from a paragraph to several pages of content: coherently written, nice to read, and completely useless because it doesn’t answer the question. The difference is that the client doesn’t have an opportunity to say, “Huh?” – except by giving a low mark.
Now, in its simplest form, with all the extra words stripped away, it’s pretty obvious the question hasn’t been answered:
Question: “How old are you?”
Answer: “I have a BA and MBA and have worked in a bunch of places.”
Regrettably, it’s not quite so obvious in its more sophisticated forms, where answers are full of jargon and run to several pages. But it’s just as fatal.
Read the question (RTQ).
Answer the question (ATQ).
Is that so tough?