Recently, I wrote about how to evaluate a proposal. Understanding how to evaluate a provider, in order to then move to the proposal stage, is something else you need to understand.

Look for a deal

While we all want our projects to succeed, the first thing you must understand is that this does not mean you need a provider who is a superstar who excels at everything. Often, there is an opportunity to get better value by seeking someone whose strengths balance your weaknesses. Rather than seeking someone who excels at everything and therefore, may be more costly, know your own strengths and weaknesses and be open to a provider who complements you.

A Web agency or freelancer may also be an option, especially if you possess a technical understanding, and know they can provide exactly what you need quickly and at a good price.

Understand the value of the gut

The initial evaluation of whether you will ask a provider to move forward with a proposal should be based on a combination of pragmatic thought and subconscious analysis. As you are working through the thought process, do not ignore that feeling you get that something is a good fit or perhaps not a good fit, even if you cannot quite pinpoint what it is. That ‘gut feeling’ can often be an indicator of how well you will work together and should not be ignored.

Ideally, you will have the opportunity to interact with both the main contact and the technical team before you reach the proposal stage, to understand their values and mindset. This is where a gut feeling about fit can indicate how well everyone will work together.

Look for experience and understanding

A provider who is worth moving forward with is one who has already achieved success with similar projects. You also want to ensure they understand what you are trying to achieve. You will be able to assess this, first, by the questions they ask, and second, by asking them to reformulate to you what they have understood and how they plan to achieve the solution.

The process

Understand that creating a proper proposal takes time and effort, and it isn’t right to ask many people to invest their time in this fully. Your initial interview process should either be by phone or Skype and based on determining whether you’re a good fit. During this initial conversation, it is all about the provider. Do not share information about your project. Simply use this as an opportunity to see whether you think you can work together, and to establish whether the provider has the basic skills and experience you need.

From there, you can narrow the list and meet a second time with a much smaller number of potential providers who you will share details of your project with. You should then ask them to take the time to consider your idea and come back to you with potential solutions and ideas.

Finally, from this you will select a few – perhaps three – who you will ask to invest time in creating a formal proposal for you to evaluate. If there’s a big difference in prices at this point, it may be that one or another did not properly understand the scope of work, and you will then need to decide whether to clarify with them or simply to evaluate those that are closer in price.

This whole process can take several weeks, even more than a month, so anticipate this and don’t rush into a decision. One thing that is important to keep in mind is that an unfair situation is the best way to fail, so be sure the final agreement is fair on both sides.

If you need additional help and more details on how to select your provider, I have created an online course called Selecting the Right Provider for my Startup Project that walks you through this  step-by-step process. This will provide you with additional insight and information, including the exact Evaluation Worksheet and list of interview questions, so be sure to check it out.