Editor's note: Elissa Moses is partner in qual platform provider HARK Connect and CEO of research and branding firm BrainGroup Global. 

When Joni Mitchell sings, “I’ve looked at life from both sides now” she could easily be describing my career as both a client and a research vendor. I have written the RFPs and awarded millions of dollars in research and I have answered the RFPs and won millions, not to mention lost millions, as well.

Research can be a high-stakes endeavor with brand positioning, new product introductions and major ad campaigns hanging in the balance. And if you are the head of a client research function, it is critical to get the most out of your budget with a push toward guiding your company to the best-in-class new techniques and innovations, while keeping an eagle eye on quality and ROI.

What are the best practices in being a client and a vendor in the RFP or design and bidding process? Well, no one teaches this unless you learn from a good boss and I was fortunate enough to be schooled by some of the greats! But overall, both sides need to understand the process so that they can get the best deal, protect their interests and act with honor and integrity.

Be specific. Which countries? What incidence? How are you defining your target? (Last week I got asked to provide a bid for one of the biggest global studies ever and when I asked which countries we should go to for the qual portion out of those listed, the answer was, “You decide.”) All of the details impact pricing and you may get much more attractive estimates if you can provide the givens upfront. Otherwise the bid will rest on assumptions and the reality could provide surprises such as an incidence assumption of 85% that turns out to be 25%.

Lead with objectives (not methodology). I always tell my teams, if you start with clear objectives, the study designs itself. An astute and skilled researcher has a large t...