I’m a big fan of AMC’s new zombie series, “The Walking Dead.” A child of the 80s, I’ve always loved those creepy, horror movies like Friday the 13th, Halloween, and Nightmare on Elm Street.
Here’s something else that’s scary to us marketers in the AEC industry: the dreaded “Zombie RFP.” Ever heard of the Zombie RFP? I hope not. I want credit for that term!
The Zombie RFP is the fringe opportunity that is no go’d early only to come back to life a few days before the due date and make your life a living hell.
Tell me if you’ve encountered this situation: an RFP comes in for a decent project which your firm could likely complete. Perhaps it would look nice on your folks’ resumes and the photographs of the completed work would be pretty cool on your website.
But something is wrong. Actually many things are wrong.
Your Go/No Go analysis indicates that your firm didn’t take the time to visit with the client before the RFP was released, and now it has become apparent that there are two major competitors who have worked with the client in the last five years and have well-developed relationships. In addition, the RFP is asking for 5 relevant, completed projects from the prime with references in a specialized project type for which your firm doesn’t have great depth. Finally a detailed project approach to the scope is required along with a fee, but unfortunately, all of the potential project champions have a heavy project workload and are unavailable to help much. Sound familiar?
This RFP has flunked the Go/No Go test and you, the empowered marketing professional, have put this opportunity out of its misery. Hallelujah. No Go! You can see your hit rate increasing!
You go about your life working on other deadlines for which your firm is well qualified.
But then something incredible and not that uncommon happens. The opportunity comes back to life!
A higher-up who wasn’t involved in the initial No Go decision learns more about the project or is alerted to its existence by a potential teaming partner. It usually goes something like this – “I understand from a friend that even though the client is asking for 5 completed projects from the prime, we can submit unbuilt work or we can show projects from our teaming partners or consultants.” Or how about this – “I’ve been contacted by a potential teaming partner who plays golf with someone in the client’s office, and he has been encouraged to submit a proposal!”
So the RFP is now a Go and you drop everything to put together a pretty solid 11th hour response. Because you’re a professional and that’s what you do.
In my experience, these responses to Zombie RFPs rarely result in a shortlist, much less a win. I would argue that it’s almost better to NOT be shortlisted for an interview so your firm can learn its lesson, save money, and live to fight another day. Even a great interview can’t be counted on to save a flawed pursuit.
What do you think? Have you responded to Zombie RFPs? Have you had any success? What are some good reasons you’ve been given to chase seemingly unwinnable work?
Next week: How to bury the “Zombie RFP” for good.