The age-old agency RFP process has historically been about “the win”. Both the agency and the client have had to hold certain cards near their chest. RFP/RFI questions have been littered with hundreds of questions that don’t really uncover what an agency is good at. Pitch teams have consisted of senior leadership and well-intentioned (albeit sometimes empty) promises are made.

At Tenx4, we are redefining the process to be about the fit. What this means is that we have created a process that puts people at the center. With this more “humanistic” approach, we have found the key to developing long term and successful partnerships between our clients and their chosen agency partner.

This starts with understanding the actual business challenge and partnership needs of our clients. While most RFPs are time sensitive, taking the time to establish what the RFP is solving for is an imperative step that should be specific and thorough. This will inform the caliber of agencies vetted, the parameters of the brief and the next steps for determining the path forward that is best for a client’s unique situation.

Agencies invited to participate in the RFP should fit the fundamental RFP requirements. No more “square peg, round hole” relationships, wherein the agency “sort of” does what the client needs, but their expertise truly lies elsewhere. Relationships established on such an uneasy footing are rarely successful. As practitioners, we bring our industry knowledge to our deep vetting process and truly understand each agency’s unique strengths and weaknesses. We thoroughly vet and create a carefully curated list of agencies who excel in helping brands evolve through the identified challenge. We also encourage agencies to decline participation in RFPs if the brief doesn’t align with what they’re great at.

One of the most important aspects of assessing the right “fit” comes down to pitch meetings. These meetings are a time to build confidence and establish the building blocks for a successful partnership; therefore, having team alignment is crucial. Pitch meetings should be collaborative, have participation from both sides and include people who will actually be working together. Time and time again, we’ve heard our client’s question (and rightly question) if the “pitch team” will be working on their business. We’ve seen multiple agencies loose pitches because the CEO, VP or GM of the entire office will not be working on their business. We have encouraged our agency partners to bring key team members so that both sides can assess if this partnership is a good fit for all parties.

Through many experiences, we have seen that bringing transparency, honesty and clarity to the RFP process is resulting in better and more successful client/agency partnerships. In leveling the playing field, both the client and the potential agency can accurately assess if this will be the right partnership for both parties. Redefining the RFP process to be about the fit is not only changing the working lives of our clients and their chosen agency partner, but shaping the industry resulting in happy and healthier business relationships.

We’re grateful to be driving this change.