How to Evaluate Vendors Objectively: RFP Best Practices

It's a given that most organizations use RFPs (Request for Proposals) to promote transparency and fairness in their decision-making, especially regarding large purchases. But I've been reading hundreds of RFP evaluation criteria and the scoring structure often falls short.

If we're in the habit of requesting information, shouldn't we have a solid process for how we process and leverage it? 

In this post, we'll provide some general RFP best practices, explain how we've built those into the RFP365 software, and provide some scoring resources to help you work smarter. 

Make RFP evaluation easier (and more fair) with objective scoring

Why is effective RFP evaluation so critical? Because you need to have absolute confidence that every selected candidate is truly the best vendor for the job.

Your clients, stakeholders, shareholders, or constituents demand it...and a single misstep could cost your organization thousands (or millions) of dollars. Not to mention the possibility of losing your job.  

High dollar RFPs are especially delicate. The more money at stake, the more stakeholders to satisfy, and the more opinions to consider during the evaluation meeting.

To combat the pressure it helps to have a concrete scoring game plan as well as clear records of who was invited, how they were scored, and why they were chosen. 


Key steps to objective scoring 

Step 1: Identify the importance of each section and assign a Weight. More on how to do weighted scoring here

Step 2: Identify the relative importance of each question within a section. You can adjust weights up and down. Some questions are more valuable than others.

For example, I want to know the name of the solution, but I'm not going to score it. You can also provide scoring help to your evaluation team at the question level. For example, you might say "Look for their ability to deliver...". 

Step 3: Identify your scoring team.

Step 4: Start scoring your proposals.

For those of you not using an RFP software this will likely happen in an Excel spreadsheet, keep reading for more evaluation tips. For those of you using RFP365 to evaluate your vendors, this is what it will look like: 

Your scoring team will be notified automatically via email when the deadline has hit and the responses are available to be scored. 

Step 5: Individual scorers read, evaluate, and assign scores to vendors' responses. They can make internal notes as desired. As the Point of Contact, you can reject individual responses back to vendors for more information or clarification. 


Step 6: RFP365 averages the scorers' results and plugs those into the weighted scoring algorithm. If a section is worth 100 points, for example, a vendor who scored perfectly across all of your evaluators would be awarded 100 points. 


Step 7: Review the scoring progress to identify open scoring tasks.

Step 8: Review the summary scoring information to see overall results, section level sub-totals, and other perspectives on the data. 

Still intimidated by how to RFP weighted scoring? This webinar is a great place to start.

Learn how to do RFP weighted scoring [webinar]

Or check out our weighted scoring eBook here


Maintain control over the evaluation process

Ensure a fair, accurate, and stress-free evaluation process by focusing on consistent scoring.

When scoring is consistent from bidder-to-bidder and project-to-project, the evaluation process runs smoothly and lessens the number of hours your team pours into selecting the proper bidder.

A consistent scoring process is most easily achieved by installing an objective evaluation system. Rather than considering each respondent separately and expressing their value qualitatively, develop a way to assign each respondent a numerical, or quantitative, score.

That way, your team won’t waste time arguing for the best vendor based on individual, unrelated cases; the data will accurately represent the best fit.

A few methods to develop an unbiased scoring system:

Weighted scoring enables your team to assign value to each question or section. For example, you may decide that Prior Work Experience is worth 20% overall and answers to detailed Requirements are worth 40%.

At a more granular level, you may even say that specific questions are more important than others. (If you're issuing a complex RFP we recommend weighting each question rather than just the sections.) 

Side-by-side vendor comparisons make it easy to appraise bidders objectively based on each and every vertical of criteria. Bidder “A” might be outstanding in one area, but Bidder “B” might have adequate strength in multiple columns.

The key is to evaluate vendors across one question at a time, giving you a crystal clear comparison. 

Support your organization and yourself

Using consistent, objective scoring based on the priorities and concerns of all stakeholders will make it easier to defend and justify your decision or recommendation.

And when you have the confidence to not only be transparent with the ultimate decision makers, but to prove higher productivity within your team during the evaluation process, your job couldn’t be more secure.