RFP Do's and Dont's: 3 Reasons Vendors Won't Bid Your Project

Want to know a secret? Sometimes we don't respond to Requests for Proposals, and several of our customers have admitted they won't either. Why? 

Because sometimes the requests are terrible.

Case in point, municipal and federal vendors even created a "bad procurement language" hotline so they can contest biased or vague RFP language. 

"Bad" RFPs are a big risk for purchasers because quality vendors have several options. (If you're a vendor or a supplier looking for RFP tips get your tricks here.) Meaning they likely won't respond to subpar request, which can leave you with much slimmer pickings. 

What makes an RFP terrible? Here are three of the most common culprits and what to do about them.

#1. The responding process it too hard, and too full of red tape. 

 How to Issue Engaging Request - too long.gifSource: Giphy

 How to Issue Engaging Request - too laborious.gifSOURCE: IMGUR.COM

Top providers will always be in high demand; so if your RFX process (RFI, RFP, RFQ, etc.) is overly strenuous, chances are they'll bid on projects which don't require such a huge time commitment. 

#2. The request is too long.

Similarly, vendors will not be highly motivated to answer 500 questions when they're not even sure they'll win the business.  

Too_much_work_2.gifSource:  HTTP://SYREIN.TUMBLR.COM

All_the_questions.gifSOURCE REDDIT.COM

#3. Or the collection format is laborious.

However you're asking suppliers to submit responses, avoid being overly rigid. Don't require a clunky portal or printing and shipping thousands of pages. Don't mandate using Microsoft Word when Excel would work better.  



In other words, consider how your requirements will effect your stakeholders. Are you asking too much too fast? Are you using a system that will inherently make their job harder? 

If we don't ask ourselves these questions, we risk being left with bottom of the barrel options. 


Do’s & don’ts of issuing an engaging RFP

Luckily, a couple of minor tweaks can make our RFPs much more lovable and "respondable." Below are some basic guidelines for issuing RFPs that will delight your stakeholders.

Want more than basic Do's and Don'ts? Get detailed examples and tacticals in the podcast.

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[*Editor's note: this list of do's and don'ts was originally published on Lockton Companies HR & Technology blog.]


  • Don’t interrogate your vendors with endless RFPs.
  • Don’t require physical paper submissions (offer a digital option).
  • Don’t paint vendors into a corner with overly-specific questions.
  • Don't be so attached to your "system" that you won't try new technology or tools.
  • Don’t use generic, boilerplate questions (without tweaking).
  • Don’t default to issuing an RFP as the first step (consider your options).
  • Don’t be a “one and done” purchaser (an inconsiderate customer).


  • Make your RFP as short and sweet as possible (even if it requires multiple rounds).
  • Give an electronic-submission option.
  • Ask open-ended questions over highly specific questions.
  • Do use technology when it helps streamline the process (like eprocurement tools and/or vendor management systems).
  • Use past questions as a starting point; then tailor to make them relevant.
  • Issue the RFP once you’ve done your homework.
  • Prioritize and invest in your vendor relationships.


Essentially, all the RFP examples and best practices come down to basic human behavior. If you make it easy for vendors and suppliers to engage, they will. 

Supplier Relationship Management is, after all, the management of relationships. And if we don't empower our vendors to deliver, we risk losing them.   


You might also like: The Dos & Don’ts of a Vendor Selection