Sometimes there are valid reasons to not respond to EdTech RFPs.
Unless your EdTech company’s business model is a free app with paid upgrades or the model is selling some kind of niche product that is cheap enough that districts or schools or even teachers can buy it without going through a procurement process, you will eventually be dragged, probably kicking and screaming, into the world of RFPs.
At face value, RFPs seem like a great way to grow high-quality, high-dollar district and state level work. All you have to do is respond to the RFP, the people who read it will clearly see that your company is far and away the best for the job, and a big new state contract is yours.
Once you’ve responded to a few that you’ve lost, you’ll begin to realize that there are many, many layers to the RFP process, and that there are some instances when you can tell, by a combination of carefully reading the documents and relying on your EdTech business intelligence network, that you should expend the time or expense to respond.
Check For Automatic Kick Outs
The first, most obvious kick out is failing to meet a requirement. As I pointed out in the post, “5 Proven Tips to Responding to Education RFPs,” requirements are just that, and you should not continue if there is one that you don’t meet. Don’t think that they might make an exception for your company because you just know that you’re perfect for the job. Maybe you are, but that’s not how it works. As soon as they see you’re missing a requirement, you’re eliminated. So, just move on.
The next, more subtle kick out is determining whether or not an RFP was written directly for, or written in hopes that, a given organization or company will be chosen to fulfill the needs of the contract. Yes, unfortunately, the “fair and open” government contract procurement procedure is often neither fair nor open.
This is where you use your ongoing business intelligence gathering in the EdTech space. The first read-through of the RFP should always include people who are out in the field on a daily basis, who know what’s going on in the real world and can pick up on any clues in the language of the contract that it was written for a specific company. If the RFP only gets handled by people who are strictly internal at your company, they might miss something that will be obvious to someone who is out in the community.
Work the Phone and Email
Next, call around to your connections who you think might be aware of the RFP and ask if they have any information. It’s not uncommon for one CEO to call a friendly connection, like a CEO at a similar company, and find out that the RFP is in the bag for someone else and to steer clear. This can save thousands of dollars and a whole lot of man-hours that could be better spent on other projects.
Is it a Legal Formality?
Finally, check out who the incumbent is. If the contract is not for a new program or tool, find out who is running the current program. Find out if it is working. Find out if the state or district is happy with the program. If there don’t seem to be any major problems going on, check the current contract. Chances are that the contract is expiring, there are no more extensions to be given, and the RFP is something they have to issue by law. There is very little chance an educational institution is going to want to fire a vendor they’re happy with, so just move on.