April 27, 2017
Let’s face it, when you are a DIYer in competitive intelligence (doing it yourself, for the newbies out there), you can’t do it all. Sometimes you will have to go outside for help. I am not going to cover all the issues involved here, because they are many and I have covered them elsewhere.
I want to deal here with a couple, from the perspective of the company you will be dealing with. Here are a few of the most common issues you may face when doing this for the first time:
- First, always protect yourself and your firm. Before you get into sharing any details, get all potential contractors to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Also, make sure that they do not have a conflict of interest.
- Do you know exactly what you want? If so, write it down, including the deliverables, timing, and your intended use. If it is clear and complete, you can ask for a RFQ, request for a quote. What you will get back is a dollar amount and, only if you asked for it, a statement of the firm’s relevant qualifications and experience.
- If you cannot do that, you need a RFP, a request for a proposal. Here you provide as much basic information as you can, and then let the firms explain the how, what, and when. If you need it by a specific date, say so at the beginning. If you are dealing with multiple firms, and a firm asks a question which you answer, to be fair, share that exchange with all the other firms.
- Decide what criteria you will use when selecting a winner in any RFP competition. In fact, write that down before you start. It is just lowest price? What about speed? How about prior experience? Anything else?
- When you get the proposals, decide quickly. If you ask for a response to your RFP in 10 days, be prepared to decide in 10 days. Play nice. The firms competing for your business put a lot of time and money into doing these RFPs.
- Are you prepared to explain your decision? Some firms may ask you for a debriefing if they lose out. Having your criteria written down in advance will make that a lot easier.
 John J. McGonagle and Carolyn M. Vella, The Manager’s Guide to Competitive Intelligence, Praeger, 2003, Chapter 15.