And the Winner Is: Following Up on the RFP


“And finally, based on past performance, we feel that this proposal can yield our projected cost-per-acquisition. It is our recommendation that client X enter into this arrangement, but instead of a 12-month minimum commitment, we negotiate a 3-month minimum commitment and…”


He lets out a frustrated sigh when his phone rings a second time. “Am I ever going to finish this email?” he thinks to himself as he reaches for the receiver.

“Hello, this is Magwich.”

“Hey there Magwich; it’s Viceroy Fizzlebottom from, home of the web’s largest air-breathing demographic.”

“Yeah, I know who you are, Viceroy. Uh, how’s it going?” Magwich distractedly responded, still thinking about the email he was working on.

“Well, recently we submitted an RFP (request for proposal) for client X’s underwater basket-weaving campaign and have heard no response back from you guys, even though I’ve been calling the buyer to see what the status is.”

“I’m sorry, Viceroy. You know how busy it can be,” Magwich offered, realizing it wasn’t much of an excuse, merely a thin explanation. Viceroy went on.

“As you may know, advertising is a relatively close, some might even say incestuous industry, and the microcosm of online advertising within that is even more so. Well, as a member of the inner cabal of online ad sales representatives, it has come to my attention that your agency has begun sending out insertion orders to sites for client X’s underwater basket-weaving effort. My friend Stephen Dedalus didn’t get one, and his heart was going mad. I asked if he was going to call you, and he said ‘Yes, I will. Yes.’ Well, we have not received one, and I am wondering why.”

“Oh, crap,” Magwich exasperated internally. Explaining to sites why they didn’t make a buy is his least favorite activity. Not only does it mean he’s got to come up with a solid reason why didn’t get on the buy, but he now has to get the ol’ resell from Viceroy Fizzlebottom: But our site reaches more air-breathers than any site on the web; we have more stickiness; some of the biggest advertisers on the web have run on our site….

And it goes on.

This happens to Magwich frequently. Sometimes the rep’s manager will even call and grill him about why their site didn’t make a buy. But this isn’t unique to the web. The same thing happens in print advertising, too. And newspapers. And broadcast. In each medium, vendors under consideration for an advertising effort want to know why they did not make the final plan.

The primary reason, of course, is a good one. They want to know what points of differentiation there were so that they can amend what they offer next time accordingly. Secondly, it does (as alluded to above) give them an opportunity to make a last-ditch effort to squeeze onto a plan or buy.

Given this, I’d like to now share a great negotiating tactic with all of you buyers out there. I’ve picked it up from our agency’s fearless leader and my current mentor, Dave Smith:

Before you start issuing insertion orders, if time permits, make contact first with all of the sites considered for the buy but not recommended for this round.

This will accomplish three things:

  1. You will head off and avoid surprise from the kinds of calls depicted above.

  2. You will forge a more open and honest working relationship with your rep by paying them the courtesy of reciprocal communication. (Look at it this way. You expect them to get back to you when you are requesting information from them; a little quid pro quo on this front never hurt anyone.)
  3. And finally, it opens up the opportunity for a little renegotiation. If the only reason didn’t make the buy is because the CPM was $5 higher than another site similar to it, maybe Viceroy Fizzlebottom can move on the CPM, suddenly making the more attractive site. Perhaps they’ll throw in some bonus weight to lower the effective CPM. Could be will offer up some CPC action. Who knows? But you won’t find out unless you make contact with the site BEFORE you start issuing those IOs (insertion orders).

I know that some of you out there who have done business with me or our agency in the past have not always been dealt with this way, but believe me, it is our desire and our policy. And it should be for all buyers if we are ever to preserve some humanity in this business.

“Humanity? Is to love men.
“Knowledge, to know men.”
– Kung (Confucius)

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