Looking for an eLearning Partner? 5 Reasons to skip the RFP.


If your organization provides products or services (which most do) you’re probably familiar with RFPs, or Requests for Proposal. Depending on your role, you may love them or they may be the bane of your existence.

I’m kidding…mostly. RFPs certainly have benefits. If you’re in need of a commodity product, it’s wise to collect completed RFPs from a number of potential suppliers to compare not only price, but reliability of the company.

It’s a bit different for creative services (like eLearning development) where solutions are tailored to unique needs. While it may be convenient to blanket the market with RFPs and see what comes back to you, there are a few reasons it’s unwise to do so.

  1. The questions don’t apply. Is each RFP written specifically for the product/service needed, or is there one standard RFP form used regardless of circumstance? It’s unnecessary to ask a creative firm to attempt to answer questions that apply to a widget manufacturer.
  2. eLearning is unique to each company. Its fully customized creation doesn’t lend itself to a standard RFP. There needs to be a real dialogue, not just filling out fields on a form.
  3. It sends the wrong message to potential partners. Not only does it suggest you’re not a serious buyer, it suggests you’re not interested in/available for real conversations at this point, which means you may not receive well thought out responses in return. Partners may be hesitant to follow up with additional questions because you’ve essentially said “talk to the hand.” With limited information, the vendor can’t possibly assemble the best possible package for your unique organization, and that makes comparing vendors difficult. There’s a good chance you won’t find your true ideal partner.
  4. Business Leaders discourage vendors from responding to RFPs. Why? Because they are often used just to cost-justify a current partner or vendor business. As more product/service providers adopt this thinking, you’ll receive fewer responses from the best providers you really should be engaging.
  5. They don’t capture what you really need to know. As smartly stated on the Versa Studio blog, RFPs don’t capture “capabilities, interest level or suitability.”

You’ll save time for all involved by having an open dialogue rather than ask a vendor to complete a standard form, and you’re much more likely to find an ideal partner.

If you must require an RFP, FCB Global CMO, Chris Shumaker, has some good advice here. While he is speaking of advertising agencies, the thought process applies to any creative services firm, including eLearning developers.

Ditch the RFP. Have a real conversation instead.

At Expand, we prefer to talk with potential clients and follow up with a  needs assessment. In order for us to recommend the best solution, we need to have a solid understanding of your organization, your needs, your training audience, your historical approach to training and how its worked, your timeframe, and many other pieces of information. Following that conversation, we are able to deliver a tailored, fully-custom solution containing our recommendations of the best approach for your individual needs, which are going to be completely different from the next potential client we talk to. 

If you're interested, check out ExpandShare's eLearning Services to see how your program can be an epic success.


Will Holland