Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are an important procurement tool, allowing buyers of products and services a structured way to define requirements, solicit proposals and compare potential vendors efficiently in order to find the best fit for their company’s needs.
Writing a Request for Proposal isn’t always easy, but the benefits they provide – especially for larger and more complex procurements – vastly outweigh the costs. Here are five tips for creating a great RFP.
- Get stakeholder input upfront. Nothing can doom an important procurement project to failure more than creating an RFP in a bubble. At the very beginning of the creation process, it’s critical to identify all key stakeholders and engage them in the process of creating the RFP. Internal teams need to provide input, and be in harmony, before sending anything to your vendors.
- Be specific with your requirements. If you don’t know what your requirements are, how will prospective vendors? Vague, poorly written requirements sections will lead to vague, poorly written proposals. Which will then lead to poorly written contracts and lots (and lots) of problems after the contract is signed. Make sure to invest ample time to create clear, specific requirements.
- Define your evaluation criteria. Unless you are buying pure commodities, price should rarely be how you select a winning vendor. You get what you pay for, which includes quality products, fast delivery and great service. Determine what criteria really matter to you, and define them in your proposal. It will allow vendors to talk to their strengths in those areas, which will help you make a better overall selection.
- Know what’s negotiable (and what’s not). Define what you really care about, and what you’re willing to give up to get it, before you go out to bid. For example, if fast turnaround is critical to you, and speed of payment critical to the vendor, would you be willing to swap faster payment for faster turnaround? Spend time up front to define your swaps, and get buy-in from those that need to give you approval to do so.
- Speak with one voice. RFPs are often the work of teams, which can frequently be seen through a mixture of voices, strategies, goals and definitions. Multiple viewpoints can make reading and comprehension difficult for vendors, and can result in proposals that are too long and full of mixed messages. Assign one person to be the ‘quarterback’ of the RFP, and responsible for merging all those different perspectives into a single voice.
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