How to write an RFP for Benefits Administration: 10 Quick Tips
Much to everyone's chagrin, Request for Proposals are still largely considered the gold standard of vendor selection.
Meaning if you're one of the 39% looking for new benefits enrollment systems or 32.7% seeking better benefits administration tools, or any other kind of HRIS software, you'll likely be issuing an RFP sooner than later.
So here’s some practical tips for finding your next benefits administration partner faster, and making sure that RFP is worth your while.
10 Quick tips for writing a Benefits Administration RFP
1. Pinpoint what you need
Defining what you need sounds obvious, but it can be tricky. Employee Benefit News published a great article on the First rule to hiring a benefits administration vendor: Know thyself, saying:
"Once you complete your self-assessment and know your desired end-state, assemble criteria to help guide your conversations with different vendors. While most large businesses have professional on-staff procurement teams and formal Request for Proposal processes to solicit and review proposals, smaller organizations are left to their own devices."
Key takeaway: take time to really consider your team's unique needs, their varying tech skills, willingness to spend time on implementation, desired integrations, etc.
2. Decide what you're asking for (RFI vs. RFP)
Once you know what you're looking for, you're ready to start shopping. The next question is it a "just looking" kind of shopping or do you have a clear picture of what you need? If you have exact specifics you're probably ready to issue an RFP, but if your requirements are less defined, you should probably issue an RFI first.
Check out our handy infographic to learn more about sending an RFI vs an RFP.
Key takeaway: if you're not sure what you're looking for, start with broad, high-level, RFI.
3. Use RFP tools
Traditionally, RFPs are conducted using Word, Excel, or PDFs documents that are either emailed or physically mailed back and forth (more on the history of the RFP & RFX process here). However, there is an easier way to issue RFPs. Vendor management software call help facilitate the process and make it easier to compare vendors side-by-side (without manual Excel matrices, or Excel). Learn more here.
Key takeaway: eprocurement software can make vendor selection much simpler.
4. Decide how you’re scoring
"When you send your RFP to multiple vendors, you need to have a way to compare their answers. Establishing your scoring method prior to sending out the RFP helps with how the questions are created and gives you a better understanding of what is important to you and why you are asking the questions you are asking. It is important when scoring responses to ensure that solutions meet core criteria (“must haves”), which you should already have established prior to sending."
Learn how to do weighted scoring here.
Key takeaway: confirm your scoring method and your "must haves" before you hit send.
5. Ask the right questions
To write an effective RFP, you have to know not only which questions to ask, but also what not to ask. Businessolver's Top 7 Ill-advised RFP Questions is a great place to start, they give great examples of ineffective questions, why they don't work, and how to rephrase them so you get the information you need.
Not surprisingly, it's one of their top most-shared posts (according to Buzzsumo) from the last year, coming in with 563 shares on LinkedIn alone.
Key takeaway: your efforts are wasted if your questions are too general or vague.
6. Customize your RFP template
A RFP template is a great place to start, but it's a terrible place to finish. Whether you're using an industry standard template or a team recycle from your last project, you always need to tailor your questions.
Learn more about how to cut the chitchat and customize RFP questions here.
Key takeaway: generic RFP questions will only get you generic responses, and it doesn't get you any closer to making an informed selection.
7. How helpful are they?
Some of the most common complaints we hear from our prospects and customers, is about how not-helpful tech vendors can be. For example, a lead recently complained one of our RFP software competitors wouldn't give them a demo for at least 6 months.
So, to get a true sense of a candidate's level of service, we recommend asking these 2 questions:
#1. How long does implementation take?
#2. Do you offer support outside of business hours (tech hotline, videos, etc.)
These factors are especially important because team members often need to work with vendors directly. When in doubt, ask candidates for case studies and read 3rd party reviews (like Capterra) if possible.
Key takeaway: sometimes it's usability, and "helpfulness" that is the real make or break in selection.
8. Find relevant benefit solutions
Another important vendor management consideration is how innovative and up-to-date they are. Too often, companies can coast based on the "brand" they've built even if they've let their quality slip. So be sure to focus on functionality over name, because it's often the underdog who's working the hardest.
(Learn more about how to select "cloud" based technology and specific questions to ask).
Key takeaway: look for engaged providers who frequently launch new features based on their users' requests.
9. Equip yourself
One of the smartest things we've done at RFP365 is learn from smart people. One way we do this is by subscribing to great industry resources and using Slack to share our favorite articles and pull quotes amongst the team (replacing countless internal emails).
Some of our favorite resources who consistently provide top-notch benadmin advice (and did not pay us to recommend them) include:
- Lockton HR Technology blog
- Employee Benefit Advisors (we also took their advice and follow these 30 benefit pros on Twitter)
- Employee Benefits News
- Businessolver - especially their webinars & RFP toolkit
- Bloomberg BNA
- Business Insurance
Takeaway: learning from industry pro's will help you work "smarter, not harder," and give you someone to reach out to when you have a question.
10. Ask an expert
Have a question about how to write an RFP, or manage HR outsourcing?
Sometimes you have to ask an expert. Which is why we teamed up with our friends at Businessolver and Employee Benefits Adviser to get their Benefits Consultant insights and discuss the best way to write a Benefits Administration RFP.
Click the computer to check out our Master the RFP Process webinar.
We covered everything you need to know about starting or improving a ben admin RFP including:
- The top questions you need to ask in your RFP
- Practicals for vetting potential providers
- How to build a positive relationship with your vendors