Noggin: how to avoid death by RFP

The UK heatwave is now in its third week and here at Noggin we are up to our necks in RFP’s.

That’s ‘Request For Proposal’ for those fortunate souls who have never filled one in.

Late spring inboxed us with a flurry of new business briefs. And just as summer arrived and the world cup began – a time when everyone wants an additional ten hours off per week – we’ve been forced into something we always try to avoid: overwork.

I mean, no one moves out of blue chip corporate life and into behavioural psychology to work longer hours, do they? Far from it. A 45-minute keynote on working smart or relational agility is far more our thing.

The silver lining 

However, like with all periods of stress and exertion, a solution eventually presented itself.

It came right in the middle of a ‘go-to-meeting’ style video call, with a typically process-heavy prospect. The client who had invited us to pitch, a long-term advocate of ours, had recently stepped out of the tender process. She’d been replaced by a procurement chief we’d never met before, who’d taken a break from buying Ford Mondeos to make a call on Noggin’s latest propositional masterpiece… What could possibly go wrong? After yet another weekend spent dipping alternatively in and out of said prospect’s gargantuan RFP guidelines and a decent bottle or two of wine, the Noggin lightbulb had flickered into life.

We had the basis for what this particular client might call ‘a turnkey solution’ (and what you and I might call ‘the big idea’).

But just as I was reaching the, erm, climax of said conference call, and getting ready to swing for the fences, the procurement chief interrupted (in an unfortunate nasal tone): ‘I’d like to inform you that you have 10 minutes to complete your proposal.’

Now, at this stage it has to be said that (internally at least) I went into an unusual state that commonly might be called ‘pissy pants’ (this may feature soon in our new series of blogs ‘Behaviour Of The Month’). However, given the size of the client and the sheer weight of work that had gone into the call preparation, I managed to keep my terser sentiments to myself. That said, our big idea, and the call in general, had lost momentum at just the wrong moment. The conversation needed to be re-established, rapport re-built and the idea pitched fresh… followed by costs. And all in the space of 10 minutes.

We got the job done and made it to the end of the call – but it was at that moment (again internally) I called a ‘T’ for ‘Time Out’…


Noggin is all about our core values of relationships, quality and purpose. We realised that unless these things exist in the background of a conversation, be it a pitch process or actually doing the work we do with our clients, there’s no point in proceeding.

We re-wrote the rules for proceeding with an RFP:

– Do we know them?

– Do we like each other?

– Will they be at the pitch?

If the answer is no to any of these things it’s unlikely their business culture is ready for Noggin’s way of working. In applying these new guidelines we’ve reduced the number of RFP’s that need responding to by half.

We’ve reclaimed our weekends and we’re no longer at risk of overwork… we’ve gorged on world cup football… phew 🙂

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