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Do Your Homework When Making Product Substitutions

When developing a request for proposal (RFP), try to capture the product preferences of their potential clients.

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As consumers, everybody tends to have a product preference or bias. If you’ve always liked Fords, you’re going to look at them first before you consider another vehicle. If your hot button is peanut butter, you may sneer at anything that isn’t Skippy Super Chunk. These products work for you, and while you may (or may not) consider alternatives, you’ll really need to double check things before you decide to go with Peter Pan Whipped Creamy on your sandwich.

When developing a request for proposal (RFP), consultants try to capture these product preferences. It could be that the consultant has worked with certain products in the past, there’s an installed base and compatibility must be preserved, the client has a preference, or any of a host of other reasons. Or, it could be as simple as making it easy for the bidder to understand what you’re looking for. Either way, bidders should pay attention to the brand and model number selected, and either match it or come as close as possible on their bid.

In many cases, the RFP will say “or approved equal,” indicating that a substitution will be considered. Sometimes that can be deceptive; many clients won’t entertain alternatives but have to put that to satisfy their purchasing department. At the other extreme, some clients will consider a product that is equal or better, even if the RFP doesn’t explicitly say so. If you’re not sure, it is always best to ask (sometimes “off the record”). If you can’t get a straight answer, consider providing the “equal” as an alternate.

What you don’t want to do is bid the project and install an unapproved substitution. At that point you are running the risk of having to rip the product out and replace it with the specified product, negating any cost savings you may have realized by making the substitution in the first place. Substitutions made after the fact are often denied, even if the client would normally have approved it. No one likes to feel cheated, and even if your intentions were noble, it may seem like “bait and switch” and leave a bad taste in their mouth. Like Peter Pan Whipped Creamy when you’re expecting Skippy Super Chunk.


Article Topics
Blogs · Enterprising Solutions · Product Substitutions · RFPs · All Topics

About the Author
Bob Grossman
Bob Grossman has held positions in all areas of the security industry — giving him plenty of opportunity to learn from his mistakes! He has spent time as an end user, responsible for security, surveillance and low-voltage electronics at Bally’s Park Place, a major Atlantic City casino. As a senior project manager for Sensormatic Electronics’ Enterprise Accounts group, he learned first-hand the difficulty in translating ideas into reality while staying on schedule and under budget. He has worked for both Vicon Industries (as vice president of Customer and Technical Services) and American Dynamics/Tyco Safety Products (as director of Product Line Management), with responsibilities that included pre- and post-sales support, project design, product line management, customer service and sales. Bob has authored several articles for SECURITY SALES & INTEGRATION and other publications and has spoken at numerous industry events both internationally and in the United State. Currently the founder and president of R. Grossman and Associates, a consulting firm, he divides his time between project-based work for large integrated systems and product consulting for a variety of cutting-edge manufacturers.
Contact Bob Grossman: [email protected]
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Enterprising Solutions, Product Substitutions, RFPs

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