A few more thoughts on the ‘eRFx’ debate, which has sparked a few emails! BJ and I both have both discussed this in recent posts; I wanted to expand my thinking a little further.
I also tend towards the “send in a nice hard copy” model that BJ discussed. But there are a couple of big caveats.
You might embarrass the purchasing manager (“Sam, why are some bidders still sending in paper copies – is there a problem with the system”). You may be perceived to be trying to gain an unfair advantage.
Bear in mind that – depending on the system – they may only circulate answers to the evaluators in the electronic format (“so why did they destroy so many trees unnecessarily?”, and “why do I have these unnecessary documents cluttering up my office”?). Pragmatically, you won’t know how many copies to send in – whatever number you do send, it’ll be wrong!
So, I’d probably tend towards asking the buyer! (That conversation needs to be carefully scripted – it could be “We’re thinking about submitting a paper copy too, to make it easier for you to evaluate”, and/or a frank conversation if you really do feel inhibited by the e-process in terms of the quality of solution you could offer).
Other than that, it’s back to your knowledge of the buyer and the image you’re trying to create. That could be any/all of:
(1) simply honouring their electronic process;
(2) also sending in a nice, professional-looking overview document/ brochure (e.g. containing a glossy Executive Summary and solution overview); or
(3) sending in a full-blown printed document duplicating the e-material with the usual additional sections.
In the (risky!) absence of any other information, I’d personally probably default to (2) – being the option that is least likely to annoy the customer by being seen as non-compliant, whilst still letting you offer some creativity and demonstrate the professionalism and care that has gone into developing your proposal.
And, as BJ said in his original post, this style of process also calls out for a stronger pre-proposal planning process, to influence the customer’s specification and opinions PRIOR to the issue of their electronic template.