A Cautionary Tale: How to Ensure You are Never Invited Back Again to Another RFP. EVER.

cautionary tale

Preface: A Cautionary Tale

Just to clear the air, there are a TON of mistakes you can come back from during an RFP / pitch. I’ve seen it all over the past 10 years.

But this, for the first time, was something although the supplier thought was doing themselves a service, backfired spectacularly.

Therefore, I’m hopeful in sharing this cautionary tale, that it will make some people rethink their approaches.

Because even if you are the biggest or the best in the industry, you can still manage to screw up a relationship to the point of no return. And that’s not a good thing.

Breaking the Rules

If you’ve ever worked with me on an RFP, you know that I am pretty flexible when it comes to the rules. It’s not to say that you won’t be reminded of them when you break them, but if you need a bit of leeway I’m okay with it.

Especially, if you have a valid reason why you need the flexibility.

That said, when there are only TWO rules to follow that are very explicit, you really should pay attention. And follow them. Even more so if I’ve bolded them and stated after “NO EXCEPTIONS.”

Therefore, if you decide to ignore the rules at this point, you’re either:

1. Not paying attention or listening

2. Think RFP rules don’t apply to you

3. Are acting like an arrogant donkey

None of which will help you in the long run. Unless you want to find a similarly obnoxious business partner to work with. I’m not judging.

Once there was a narcissistic prince, who despite the warning, decided to seal his own fate. As it turns out, you can try to guide and help someone to the best of your abilities, but they may just continue down a path of peril.

A Tale of Arrogance

There’s a difference between telling someone, “You could or should do it this way” and “You HAVE to do it this way.”

Because the first is a suggestion, and the second is just plain rude. And by the way, we don’t HAVE to do it any way you arrogant donkey. There is a very fine line between the suggestion and brute force demand to do things your way.

Even if you are right, people aren’t going to see it that way. They will be so put off by your declaration, their ears will instantly go on mute to everything you say.

Despite the fact, we are looking for your expertise in the area, it doesn’t mean you will always be right. And positioning it as we HAVE to do it your way and it’s the only way, really crosses a line. So knock it off.

A Tale of Ridiculous Ego

If we specifically asked for the team who does the work (would be our partners) to present (NO Exceptions) we actually meant it. I don’t care if you are the President, CEO, or acting head monkey – we’d like to actually hear these people talk and present.

We do not need to hear about your decades of work in the business, how fabulous you are, and how you are the first to come up with a new idea. We actually got all of that in the first meeting and it was ridiculous.

Not to mention, having your team on the call but staring silently into the camera the entire time is creepy. You might actually want to let them talk. But somehow I’m guessing, that typically doesn’t happen in the normal day to day interactions, so why start now.

A Tale of Condescension

I don’t care what era you grew up in, we are in 2020. That’s right. And us “women” can do things. No really, we can and we’ve proved it out over decades. And get this – sometimes we can even do it better than you can!

So if you would like to pretend it’s the 1960’s again, that’s fine. Just don’t expect a team with 60-70% women on it to be on your side. It really won’t work out to your advantage.

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A Cautionary Tale – 10 Takeaways

Although it may seem like a lot of nitpicking, it’s actually a tale of utter ridiculousness. And unfortunately, it became a recipe for disaster. So here are the key ingredients, you will want to stay away from at all costs when it comes to writing your own tale:

1. Completely ignoring and breaking all rules

2. Thinking I want to hear you talk for two hours straight with no break

3. Being condescending to the key decision-makers when they ask questions

4. Acting like a donkey and letting your ego and arrogance take the lead

5. Not listening to any and all feedback

6. When we do provide feedback, take it in stride. Don’t tell me we’ve made a wrong decision and why.

7. If you have a support team, actually let them talk for once.

8. Don’t show a highlight reel from 1985 that’s no longer relevant

9. Make suggestions, not demands

10. If I tell you I am strapped for time, don’t force me to have an hour meeting just to gloat and be smug

So please, whatever you do – just be relatable. Most business partners want to work with someone who is smart, genuine, and flexible. Being the opposite of that (at least in the BioPharma Industry) is just going to guarantee you’ll never be invited back again.

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