Last week’s AESP Spring Conference was the best that I can recall, in terms of the content delivered, in my opinion. Perhaps I got lucky and went to the right presentations. Perhaps it’s because I went to more presentations than usual. Most likely it is for another reason, and readers will have to call me for that because it’s an advantage I want to hold among die-hard rant fans.
I attended an Espresso Learning Shots discussion led by Laura Orfanedes from Fiveworx. The topic was requests for proposals (RFPs) from both sides of the fence – from the buyer (utility) and seller (the rest of us) perspectives. Since my passion is knowing what triggers buyers’ animal instincts, and since I like to uh, rant, this was a good session for me.
I did provide my rundown of advice for RFP writers a little over four years ago in RFPs from the Edge. Most of the Espresso points are included in that, but I will make it easier, reiterate some here, add some that came to mind since that time, and add some more Espresso shots that were not in my list.
- Write a linear RFP. By this, I mean do not ask for intertwined grocery lists of overlapping things in three different places in the RFP. This is not linear. It’s a tangled jumbled mess, and it makes it very difficult for the writer to balance the need for the proposal to cover everything asked for and a document that is easy to read.
- Provide honest scoring criteria and stick to it. The big thing here is price versus everything else. As I wrote in RFPs from the Edge, I think pricing is almost always a much more significant factor than indicated in the RFP. To score pricing fairly, keep the pricing in a separate document, blind from the rest of the proposal. Score them separately, blind, and then add them together. Stick to it! No cheating!
- Have somebody who knows how to calculate things in a spreadsheet develop the budget tables. This is how we populate horrible mandatory budget tables: we calculate budgets like a normal person would in one workbook, and then we reverse engineer it into the goofy table required by the RFP.
- Penalize stupid questions. In the Navy we used to say there is no such thing as a stupid question; only stupid people asking questions. Example: can you tell us who you sent the RFP to? Roll these people to the bottom. Don’t forget it!
- Buy a “Get Lost” rubber stamp. This is whiners who protest the decision. As one buyer in the Espresso room said, the decision is final. Amen! The rest of us want feedback. Gee, why can’t we get decent feedback? Because whiner might file a protest and a big stink costing the buyer a bunch of legal time and expense. This is also the reason we can’t get decent references – no one will talk because whiner might protest.
- Respond to questions fast. Writing proposals is very expensive. I don’t like to ask questions, and there are only about two reasons for which I do so. One of them is for clarification which may be required to decide whether to bid or not. If responses to questions are posted the typical seven days before proposals are due, it’s too late. We cannot wait until only a week remains to get started – so we risk a bunch of work.
- No discount for paying on time. Some RFPs ask for a discount, typically 2% for early payment. We do not have deadbeat customers built into our overhead. Getting paid within 30-45 days is fine. Anyone who offers a discount adds the “discount” to rates and takes it off for the “discount”. Charades.
Nerd alert! I heard this phrase one too many times: “wind beneath the wings” as something that helps carry a project or program to success. Wings need more wind above than beneath or they fall out of the sky. It’s that simple. So ditch that saying!
Residential / Small Business
Suzanne Shelton from Shelton Group presented consumer survey data and discussed what consumers like and therefore, what utilities and programs ought to offer. One personal experience she shared involved an audit of her home, for which she self-deprecatingly called herself the participant from hell, or something to that tune.
I presume the auditor came equipped with his weather-stripping, cans of spray foam, and a basket of light bulbs, showerheads, and faucet aerators. That’s all wonderful, but what about my TV cave in the basement, which is frickin freezing? (Reminds me of Dr. Evil)
My mental response was, Mr. Football Jock, Lightbulb, Aerator Guy, as we affectionately refer to them, is not equipped to solve these sorts of problems. The market (that’s you, utility/buyer) demands McDonald’s hamburgers when some customers need a Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives burger.
I’m sure the same issues arise with small business audits and direct install programs.
What to do? Call an HVAC contractor. Residential HVAC contractors have one metaphorical tool, and that is a hammer. The nail is more of the same – just add a furnace or replace the existing one with a bigger one.
I have a solution to this programmatic problem, but I’m not going to put it in this blog. Call!
Call me (call me) on the line
Call me, call me any, anytime
Call me (call me) my love [or dude]
You can call me any day or night