To this day, however, there are a lot of assumptions, apprehensions, and misconceptions surrounding the process. So, we thought we’d gather insight straight from the vendors themselves on what it really takes to write and execute an RFP that will get you the best bids.
Here are 5 things vendors wish you knew about RFPs.
- The best RFPs are brief and concise
Organizations should understand that answering RFPs can be a tedious and time-consuming process for vendors. So as much as you probably want all your questions answered, you have to make a conscious effort to compress your queries into brief and concise questions. This will draw out the best and most thoughtful answers from vendors.
Shorter RFPs don’t mean the project is less of a priority for a business. In fact, brief RFPs actually reflect the time and effort your company put into writing it. We’ve been the in the shoes of vendors who have received 700-question RFPs. You open up the document and your stomach drops. There’s an internal debate about whether it’s worth investing the time. Then, if you agree to participate, you invariably get some degree of burnout as your responses go from comprehensive (in the beginning) to “just enough to check the box” (near the end). To maximize both the quality and quantity of vendor responses, remember to make your RFPs comprehensive, but not exhaustive. As the buyer, you’ll have plenty of time to dig deeper as you work your way through the process.
- You have to give vendors enough time to respond
If you want thoughtful responses from quality vendors, you have to give them sufficient time to respond.
RFPs aren’t the only thing that your vendors have to work on. And as important as it is to your sourcing process, it is likely just one among numerous other tasks that require their attention. Squeezing in time to create great bids along with everything else on their collective plates can prove to be difficult if they aren’t given enough time to complete it.
At the end of the day, vendors not only want to win the project but also use that as a stepping stone towards creating a lasting, long-term relationship with your organization. To do that, however, you have get past step one: the supplier selection process. By making sure that that you provide sufficient time for them to prepare their responses, you’ll increase your chances that you’ll select the supplier that is right for your organization.
- Don’t read too much into vendor questions...or silence
Vendors are dependent on the information that you provide. Sometimes, what’s obvious to the company itself may not be too clear to a supplier. And while you probably think that the context you’ve provided and the phrasing of your questions are enough for vendors to deliver a great bid, there will be times that they may need to reach out for additional information.
Do not assume that this is a sign that they’re doing a bad job. It is not a reflection of a vendor’s inability to grasp a particular request. In fact, doing so shows their engagement, interest, and dedication to getting the job done right. As a rule of thumb, you can put vendors’ minds at ease by having a Q&A period. The easiest way to do this is typically to set up a deadline by which all of the vendors have to submit their questions. When you respond, take care to broadcast clarifications and explanations to all of the vendors — whether they submitted questions or not — to make sure that all respondents have access to the same information.
- Be careful of what you are inadvertently communicating to vendors
There are certain things that you could be unknowingly communicating to vendors. The most critical one being that they have no chance of winning your RFP.
When buyers are slow to respond, especially when it comes to questions pertaining to RFP, or do not easily accommodate vendor requests for feedback/clarification, it can be discouraging and reduce the likelihood that the vendor invests time into submitting a strong proposal.
Similarly, the actual questionnaire can dissuade a strong supplier from participating in the bidding process. For example, imagine a company created an RFP questionnaire that focuses extensively on operating history, customer list, and profits, but for whom those things were tertiary considerations behind quality of the offering and price. Absent the broader context of knowing how those things stack up, a startup might assume that it has no chance at winning the deal, given its relatively short history and opt to invest its time elsewhere, rather than submitting a bid. By being thoughtful about what and how you communicate, you improve the odds of a strong outcome.
- Vendors know it’s not just about cost (but it doesn’t hurt to reassure them)
There’s a generally-held belief that vendors are apprehensive about bidding on RFPs because they know it’s a numbers game. The assumption is, the lowest bid always wins.
This isn’t necessarily true. Businesses use RFPs as part of their sourcing process because they want to manage cost and at the same time, ensure quality, maximize alignment, develop a strategic rationales, and more. Vendors know this. They also know that the lowest bid isn’t always the best option. Striking the right balance is the responsibility of the buyer and by clearly conveying the criteria, buyers better equip vendors to submit strong bids.
One last thing...
If you want the best vendors to bid and engage with your RFP, you have to make it easy for them to do so. You want to minimize the amount of work that they must do that are, in effect, unrelated to your bid. So unless otherwise required by statute or unbending policy, try to avoid asking to do certain things like printing and physically delivering the bid to your office, or requiring them to utilize slow, clunky tools, or submit the reply with smoke signals.
This is yet another the reason why you should consider an end-to-end intuitive and reliable RFP management software to streamline the entire sourcing process; enabling seamless collaboration (and enthusiastic participation) among and between key stakeholders.
Keep these things in mind when crafting your next RFP and you’ll see the difference in the responses, your options, and your ROI. If you have experience creating RFPs and have more to add to this list, please feel free to share it with us in the comment section below.To find out how Vendorful can help ensure you and your suppliers take advantage of the benefits of eSourcing, get in touch with us today.