What information should a consultant share with a client about the RFP process?

I heard from an executive recently that the consultant helping them to select their content management system had a highly qualified list of vendors they had researched and were sending requests to those who best matched their needs. So far, so good. However, the consultant refuses to share or discuss the list of vendors with the client!

This presents a few problems:

  • It shows contempt for the client on the part of the consultant;
  • It prevents the client from providing their highly valuable take on the prospective vendors as part of the selection process;
  • How does the client know they are really talking to more than one vendor?

Does your buyer agent Realtor present you with a single house? Does a car salesman show you only one vehicle, take it or leave it? Of course not.

There is no business need or ethical basis for not sharing and discussing the list of potential vendors with a client, in my not-so-humble opinion. It is simply bad practice. Any consultant doing so is not serving their client nor themselves well.

9 thoughts on “What information should a consultant share with a client about the RFP process?

  1. David, this is the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. I’d love to hear the consultant’s rationale for keeping the client in the dark.

  2. David – this makes no sense. Without trust in the consultant and some transparency, they are best off firing the consultant.

    or to put it another way, “You had me at “contempt”.

  3. I’m not defending the consultant’s actions…however, I’ve worked with consultants who have been dropped by the employing company/school after they received the client list. Then the client company/school contacted me themselves.

    I wonder if that’s why the consultant is doing it this way.

  4. Cathy, while that may happen, it reflects a terrible relationship. I’ve got to be able to trust my clients, and my clients have to be able to trust me. Otherwise we’ll never achieve the objectives we’ve set together.

  5. I agree with Wes, Cathy. If a consultant offers nothing better than their list of vendors, they aren’t worth the money. If all a client wants is a vendor list, buy a report!

  6. Fred, they probably won’t see all the responses based on what I was told. Even if they do, the client should a key player in developing the initial list.

  7. This is not “contempt” for the client. You didn’t say whether the executive was presented with just one choice or a choice of three or four vendors for the executive to consider. That’s the way most consultants work, whether it’s matchmaking software or staff or yes, even houses. The list is proprietary to the consultant — he or she went through a great deal of time, trouble, and money to create and maintain the list and contacts and case studies, and the executive supposedly hired the consultant to tap into this knowledgebase.

    It’s extremely naive to think one is entitled to the tools of a consultant’s, or any professional’s, trade. Would you demand a physician’s list of all possible drugs that might apply to a given condition and then provide the physician with your “valuable insight” into the drugs?

    If the executive doesn’t trust the client, he/she should pay the kill fee and end the relationship.

  8. Lee, I think you’re mis-placing where the value of the client/consultant relationship should be. I don’t pay my doctor for a list of drugs. I pay him to tell me which are my best choices, what the pros and cons of each are, and of the group, which he thinks the best choice is. We would reach that decision together.

    If a doctor told me “I have four drugs for you to consider, but I won’t tell you what they are,” I would assume he was on the take with the drug companies. And then I would walk out of his office.

    The relationship with the client should be one of collaboration. You can’t collaborate when one party is in the dark.

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