The Secret to a Great Web Design RFP

A recent prospect responded to my inquiry about the project budget with this:
"We can't release budget information as we need all vendors to bid their best price. If they know the budget they just bid right up to it."
I've always known that is the fear, but in the hundreds of  website projects I've pursued over the years, I think that is the first time a potential client was ever that forthright about it. However, it's an unfounded fear. In a competitive situation with 6-50 firms proposing, we all aren't going to peg our proposals at the top of the budget. Without a budget, those 6-50 vendors aren't even proposing on the same solution. They are proposing on their perception of what they think you want for a solution. That is why you'll get bids ranging from $25K - $250K from the same RFP.
If you want to receive a good mix of proposals, all proposing in the same budget neighborhood, so that you get to the no-lose situation of a short list with 3 or 4 vendors that will all do a great job on your website, you have to provide the budget in the RFP. If you truly don't have a budget, give us a ceiling, or what you consider a reasonable neighborhood. It’s 2017,research is easy. Nobody believes you are putting out an RFP without having done some basic research into what “this” should cost. If you truly want a partner (which is what every RFP claims), treat us like partners, from day 1. Share the important information so that we can craft a solution that will actually work for you.
Any competent web shop can scale a proposal to fit a budget. We can take the same basic set of requirements and design a $40K site, or a $140K site. The primary differences between a $40K site and a $140K are:

- Depth of the discovery consulting

- Amount or complexity of the interactivity in the site

-Integration with 3rd party apps

-Amount of customization in the site

Sure, we prefer to build the $140K sites. That kind of budget allows more time for creativity in the design, and more time to customize Drupal to do exactly what the client wants. However, if $40K is all you have that is fine. We can deliver a compelling website for $40K. What we can't do is read minds. Without some guidance on budget we have to guess at whether you want the $40K site, or the $140K site. Help us help you by sharing the information we need to give you the best site possible for your budget. The reason real estate agents on HGTV ask about the budget is that a 3 bedroom / 2 bath house can have a 300% or more variance in cost based on location, upgrades, quality of materials, etc. Web sites aren’t that different.
Budget is the most important information you can provide in an RFP. Given the choice of  responding to 30 pages of feature requests with no budget, and 2 pages with some very basic goals and a budget, I’d prefer to write the second proposal every time, because I know up front how to meet the customer’s expectations.
The client at the beginning of this post? They wanted the $40K site. I guessed wrong on that one.