So, you are reading an RFP that makes no sense. In one section, it tells you to do one thing. But in another section, it tells you something completely different.
Oh, well! Just submit it in the most logical way, right?
RFPs commonly need clarification. That’s why there is a question and answer period.
Whenever you read language that you even suspect might be contradictory or needs clarification, it is your obligation to ask a question.
Never, ever, hesitate to ask a question (unless the wrong answer puts you in an unwinnable position).
What If Their Answer Clarifies Nothing?
Don’t you hate this? The RFP says, “Deliver the package to the front store.”
So you submit this question:
Page two says, “Deliver the package to the front store.” Yet there is no store at the address listed. Did you mean “front door? What further clarification can you provide on where the proposal is to be delivered?
Then they respond:
“Refer to page two for delivery directions.”
Sometimes clients don’t want to clarify for reasons only they could know. But other times they might not realize (or even believe) there was such crazy language in their RFP.
If you have time, ask another question (i.e. try again). If it is permissible, give them a call.
Even if it is too late to ask more questions, all is not lost.
Did You Miss Something?
Re-read every bit of that RFP. Maybe a combination of language contained in various parts of the RFP will help you paint a picture of what you need to do.
Get a Second Opinion
RFP language can sometimes be ambiguous, meaning it has multiple interpretations. Get someone new to read the RFP and give their interpretation.
I can’t count the times another person’s interpretation helped clarify RFP language for me.
How Can You Do Both?
When in doubt, find a way to do both. The classic example is an RFP that tells you to structure your proposal in two different ways. Many times, you can structure your proposal to meet both requirements.
If the RFP asks you to put resumes in section two and section seven, put them in both.
As I always say, the world of proposals and RFPs is not dictated by logic. When you can’t get clarification, do them both.
Key Takeaway: Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification. If you can’t get clarification or help from others, find a way to meet both requirements.
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