Write, Send, and Review an RFP in 9 Steps or Less [Infographic]
There's a reason "how to write an RFP" is typed into a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo) an average of 480 times a month; because writing a Request for Proposal (much less sending and reviewing it), can be incredibly intimidating.
Luckily, it can be done effectively in these 9 simple steps or less. Think of it as an RFP process outline infographic.
(Not not a procurement professional or buyer, but a vendor looking for RFP response tips? Get them here).
Step 1. Define what you're looking for
The absolute first thing that needs to happen in the RFx or RFP process is an internal discussion.
Vendor selection isn't unlike hiring a new employee.
It begins with very clearly defining what's missing from your team and current process. By fully detailing the scope of your project and top priorities you know exactly what to look for.
Identifying these crucial factors upfront will save you countless miscommunications and setbacks down the road.
Additional resources: 5 Questions to Ask Before You Issue an RFP.
Step 2. Decide if you need an RFI or an RFP
This is one of the most common RFP process mistakes we see.
So what is a RFP and what is a RFI?
An RFI is a Request for Information, and it's typically a first step in the RFx process. The questions asked are open-ended and the resulting answers are general. These responses should help you clarify what you're looking for so you can then follow up with a more targeted RFP.
You send an RFI when you're "just looking," not seriously shopping.
Whereas a Request for Proposal is specific. You have detailed criteria and you want to see how vendors respond to those requirements. You should issue one only when you're ready to buy.
Additional resources: RFI or RFP Which Should it be?
Step 3. Find the critical questions
It's easy to ask hundreds of questions in your RFI or RFP, after all you want to be thorough.
But overly lengthy RFPs are a mistake.
First, because they require a huge investment of time and energy from vendors who may not win the project. It also means countless RFP responses for your team to review.
Instead, find your critical questions.
Chances are, you have 5 or 6 questions that are utterly essential and would immediately exclude vendors who couldn't deliver.
Make these criteria the main focus of your standard RFP template, thereby letting unqualified vendors exclude themselves and saving everyone a lot of time.
If you're still nervous about cutting down length, just remember you can always issue your questions in multiple rounds, which helps keep the amount of effort required by vendors balanced to your level of interest.
Additional resources: more on questions you should include in your Request for Proposal template here.
Pro Tip: Right-click to save the infographic for easy reference later.
*Image credit: Anna Spady via Piktochart
Step 4. Finalize your scoring method
Another common mistake we see is not finalizing supplier evaluation and scoring system before you send your RFI/RFP.
Yes it's tedious, but it's crucial. How will you be able to measure success if you're not sure what you're assessing?
Take a moment to discuss with your team what type of scale you should use, defining method and metrics.
Consider combining a mix of open-ended questions (to give vendors room to impress you) with defined weighted questions.
Step 5. Compare responses apples to apples
This is the toughie.
Obviously, you can compute the usual Excel matrix to compare responses side-by-side and compute overall scores.
A lesser-known, but infinitely simpler option is using RFP software to both make the weighting easier as well as compute the scores automatically. This is what ours looks like.
However your evaluate, the key is to compare apples to apples, meaning going question by question to see how each vendor answered. This side-by-side comparison will help make strengths and weaknesses more obvious.
Additional resources: find out more about what RFP software is and what it does in this eBook.
Step 6. Clarify
Communicating with potential providers throughout the process is essential.
Especially when you're torn between two options, and a slightly lower price, or little bit faster turnaround would make the deal.
If a fine line is keeping you on the fence, tell your providers. Often they're more than willing to negotiate especially if they know they're in the final running.
Additional resources: Secrets of Supplier Relationship Management
Steps 7. & 8. Choose & notify the winner
- Compared responses on key criteria
- Clarified sticking points
- Checked reviews and references
Then it's time to choose your best all-around fit.
Obviously you'll notify the winner, but another good vendor management best practices is to also notify the non-winners.
Because it's incredibly frustrating as a vendor or supplier to put countless hours into a bid and not know why you lost.
Any feedback you can provide is helpful because it allows them to come back next time with a better offer, be it a lower price or stronger functionality; making it worth your while as well.
Additional resources: Do's and Don'ts of a Vendor selection.
Step 9. Hit the gas
It's easy to think the work is over once you've finally selected your partner.
But like any significant investment, it requires ongoing maintenance to make it worthwhile. To get the most out of your Supplier Relationship Management it's wise to continue to build the partnership.
Keep communication open and take their needs into consideration, just like you would with any member of your team.
It can be as easy as picking up the phone to check in, or simply making it more convenient for suppliers to update their profiles.
By investing in the relationship you "hit the gas," leveraging what's possible in the partnership and how far they can take you.
Additional resources: the Golden Rule of Vendor Management.
Here's to working smarter, not harder. Cheers!
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