Vendor Solicitation Best Practices: 7 Elements of a Great RFP

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are standard practice for companies in many industries, allowing buyers of products and services to compare a number of potential vendors in an efficient manner and find the best fit for their company’s needs. The following are some do’s and don’ts of conducting a successful RFP bid:

  1. Do determine what is negotiable versus non-negotiable: It is important to determine what is most important to your organization before you go out to bid to help simplify the decision-making process. For example, are you willing to pay a negligible amount more for better customer service, or is it all about the price? Figuring out what your sticking points are prior to conducting the RFP will lead to a better and more focused vendor response that is in support of your strategic initiatives.
  2. Don’t be vague about what you are seeking: Do your homework before starting the RFP process. Defining your project in as much detail as possible will enable you to pass that information along to vendors. In turn, vendors will understand the project they are bidding on and be able to develop tailored responses based on your needs. Don’t expect the vendors to define the project for you.
  3. Do identify the specific information required: If you don’t state the specific information you need from the vendor, you’ll end up receiving a hodge podge of data. Determine the specific questions and information you might ask in order to help you select the vendor that is the best fit for you.
  4. Don’t be partial with communication: Keeping your lines of communication open is a necessary step to make sure that every bidder on your project has equal access to necessary information. If an answer is provided to one vendor, this information should be made available to all potential bidders at the same time through an addendum to the RFP.
  5. Do obtain organizational buy-in: To be successful, a project must have complete organizational buy-in. Nothing derails a project faster than not having all key staff on board. Internal teams need to be in harmony before asking for the time and effort of vendors.
  6. Don’t speak with multiple voices: 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.
  7. Do determine your evaluation criteria: Is pricing your only criteria and if so, how will you choose if all of the bidders give you proposals for roughly the same price? Some other evaluation criteria for you to consider include a reasonable implementation timeline, the ability to provide cost savings in future years, and a comprehensive description of the project team and deliverables.
This article comes from our partners at Staples Business Advantage, and was originally published as part of their Staples Advantage Business Insights.
Tom Rogers
Author:

Job Title: CEO
Organization: Vendor Centric

Tom is the founder and CEO of Vendor Centric, he has been a trusted advisor to nonprofit organizations for 30 years, with a focus on helping them align the right people, processes and systems to mitigate third-party risk and drive more value from third-party contracts and relationships.

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