The art of pitching for new projects has always fascinated me. I mean, there must be really an element of luck that each IT company is blessed with, when handling these RFIs (Request for Information documents) or RFPs (Request for Proposal) from the prospective client. How else could one explain the miracles of clinching deals with the kind of information that people provide in these pages?
The people who pitch in for new projects are the ones who know the least about the requirements and yet talk most about them. The 'gyan' that goes into the RFP documents comes from an unknown, and till then, unwanted entity sitting in a cubicle trying to act busy. Typically, the Field Force person (in simple words – sales guy) who will be 'leading' this initiative would sleep on these RFPs for the major part of the deadline and wake up the morning before to whip up the offshore people. These harried souls in turn hurry up to fill up the document with unnecessary details that no one would believe except the duds sitting in the prospective client's place. (That is, if we are fortunate to have them strategically positioned to handle these situations)
I have learnt that a seemingly ‘routine’ task such as this has helped the poor souls in interpreting and understanding bigger and more important things in life. You don’t believe it? Ha!! Then take a look at this.
Ethics. How wonderful it is to learn the art of balancing the shred of truth with the loads of lies and yet feel good at the end of the day! "Hey, we did not lie outright! We just didn’t give the complete picture, and it’s anyway not possible in an RFI." As regards to facing the consequences of these incomplete pictures that one has painted, it would a brave "We'll cross the bridge when we come to it." This is of course, if and when one does manage to squeeze into the next qualifying round.
Networking. Information seeking becomes an all time absorbing activity. This would mean calling up unknown strangers in the role of project managers, consultants and leads in every verticals and horizontals for an itsy bit of data. You would be lucky if they have just finished their lunches and are in a benevolent mood. God help you if they have just come out of a losing argument with their bosses.
The so-called soft skills. "How come you are answering this RFP? This is completely our domain. We should be getting involved at this point of time." By the time you convince them that you are handling only one aspect of the RFP and the rest 'may' be already with one of their own, you would have perspired enough to flood your cubicle.
Negotiation. The skill of extracting maximum information from others while providing minimum in return (that too most of the time, irrelevant) can be developed only when one is dealing with the fellow company men. You would be surprised at the level of resistance to part with information that is not even personal! Wait, don’t crib, the same goes for parting with your side of information. The already harassed seeker is given strict orders not to pass on anything (as if they are national security secrets) and still gain immense insights from the other.
After all the circus, one finally gets to send out the document working overtime, overnight. It is another issue altogether that the sales guys blooped the process of addressing it to the 'right' contact person, offending their sense of hierarchy and costing you the project.
That’s ok! Tomorrow is another day with another new beginning to the old process.