Whether you’re issuing an RFP while conducting a search or you’re a service provider responding to one, go back to your high school days for an important lesson: treat it like the SATs. Questions in the RFP should be very specific and well thought-out. And their answers should address exactly what the question is asking.
There are no trick questions, but there are often trick answers. Far too often, we get answers that are more like political spin than proper due diligence. As a respondent, if you get an uncomfortable question, answer it directly. If we see spin, we know to dig deeper.
If you are conducting a search and you get a dodgy or indirect answer, it’s perfectly okay to go back for clarification. When North Pier runs an RFP for a client, we typically have 10-20 questions we ask respondents to further clarify.
Lastly, be very specific in what you are looking for in your questions and be respectful in your answer. Word questions appropriately so respondents know exactly how to answer.
Example: Have you been subject to litigation in the last 10 years? If so, please provide full details.
Example: What is your client retention rate over the past three years? Please list the number of clients, by year, gained or lost over the last five years and the reasons for the losses.
If you get a “yes or no” or “short answer” questions, don’t use it as an opportunity to inject additional information that wasn’t asked. If the answer is a simple no, we don’t need to know about the legal merit badge you earned in Boy or Girl Scouts.
Is that your final answer?