RFP Blunders: Helpful Tidbits for Suppliers and Buyers

As a supplier the average cost to respond to an RFP / tender process can exceed $15,000.  This is no different than the cost of resources to a buying corporation.  The reality is an RFP is an expensive investment of time and resources, so the outcomes should reflect the commitment invested at the onset of the process. Having sat in the seat as a buyer and a supplier and now as an advisory consultant, WOW there are simple things that can be fixed to make this effort more successful.

Here are some quick tips for both suppliers and buyers to improve the experience.

Buyers:

1.  Take the time to define your requirements: All too often this step of the process is missed or glossed over and the RFP does not capture the right level of detail that will be required to make an informed decision.     Action:  Define your program objectives, desired outcomes and aligned questions of suppliers that will help accomplish those goals.

2. Templates are a starting point: Templates are a tool so you do not have to stare at a blank sheet of paper and create something from nothing.  The importance of a template is the framework of the document and the types of questions asked.  The key is, to leverage this framework and align the questions to the requirements identified at the onset of the process.

3. Communicate data so suppliers can provide the right solution: All too often there is a “fear”  or “discomfort” associated with communicating data and metrics as part of the RFP due to a variety of reasons.  The more data you can provide, the better a supplier can respond to the question based upon the information you are able to provide.

4. Adequate time to review the RFP: The average RFP question takes about 4 – 6 minutes per question, to review.  Multiple the time it takes to review each question, by the total number of RFP questions, this will provide insight on how much time it will take to review and score the RFP.  This total does not include the data analysis required to score and rate the pricing section of an RFP.

5. Contract language: As part of a tender preparation, we recommend providing the supplier with a copy of your contract terms and conditions.  Getting your legal partners involved early will expedite the contract negotiations later in the process.

Suppliers:

1.  Incumbent: If you are an incumbent, align your responses to how you are delivering services today. Letting the dedicated RFP team write your responses with no alignment to services currently being provided will make for an unhappy buyer.

2. Answer the questions: Sounds simple but seemingly it is not.  Answer the question.

3.  Address how the question and your answer will benefit the buyer: Okay so you have answered the question, but the buyer wants to know “how does that impact me?”.  Make it relevant.

4.  Don’t leave blanks: Not answering the question, especially leaving blanks adds time to the process. If the buyer is under a tight timeline you may be ruled out of the process quickly.

5.  Demonstrate operational expertise: If you are an incumbent, be prepared to address how you have remained client focused and have improved the performance of the account?  If you are new, what type of data can you provide to prove not only capability but results?

There are always many points of view around RFP’s and the related success rates. However sometime simple tweaks can make all the difference.

Tracey Friend
traceymfriend@yahoo.com

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