RFPs: What Not to Do in a Request for Proposal?

When it comes to choosing the ideal supplier, there is no such thing as spending too much time preparing for a request for proposal (RFP). The RFP should include your project goals, project scope of work (deliverables, timeline, end products etc.), your company profile, the project background and more. Click and read How to write an effective request for proposal if you’re interested in knowing more.

With so much information included in the RFP, you’ll be able to select the optimal supplier from a list of them, and get your project done by the right and best resources. But how can you make sure that you have crafted the RFP right? How can you be certain that the RFP is not cutting out the best supplier that could serve your needs?

What not to do in a request for proposal?

Here are 4 key points for your reference. Check if the RFP you craft is seeing the following problems, if yes, re-craft it. If yes, congrats, you can just send the RFP out and wait for the response that is going to land you THE supplier.

1. Not do your homework

Doing your homework means that you’ve done enough research on the companies that you’re sending the request for proposal to. So you should ask only an adequate amount of questions, which is not 100, or asking questions that you can easily find answers to from their company websites.

Sending out the RFP to dozens of firms is not doing your homework, and it sure will make your later selection work so much harder. What you should do is to spend some time doing research on your potential suppliers, and thus shorten your list from, say, 30 to 4 or 5. In this way, you’re saving your time, and that of your potential suppliers.

If you can’t find any information to help you decide who to send the RFP to, may be a request for information (RFI) would be a better choice.

2. Ask the wrong questions

In the request for proposal, your questions should be specific, descriptive, and require thoughtful answers.

What sorts of questions you should ask in the request for proposal?

  • Is the initial staff training included in the cost? If not, how is the cost calculated (e.g., by individual, by hour, by day), and what is the cost?
  • Can you share an example where you solved similar problems? What difficulties did you encounter? How did you do to solve them? What do you plan to do differently this time?

As you can see, these questions require the potential suppliers to answer with thoughtful answers. And you can tell from the reply their expertise, skills and the willingness to further cooperate with you.

What sorts of questions you shouldn’t ask in the request for proposal?

  • Have you worked for other similar cases before?
  • Do you think you can save time and money for the project?

Such questions get you nowhere, because they require only “yes” or “no” as the answers. You can’t tell if the suppliers are capable of solving the complicated project issues, or if they are actually dealing with the RFP seriously.

3. Not ask for demos at the beginning

As mentioned, it’s inappropriate to ask too many questions in a request for proposal. But if you missed out asking for a demo in the request for proposal, you’re overdoing it.

A demo or an example is the fasted way for you to see how well the potential suppliers solved problems for similar projects, and you can see the skills, expertise, and estimate their capabilities to accomplish the project goals for you. And the best part is, you can actually see what has been done by them, you have the proof and the evidence.

4. Not give constructive feedback

When you’ve selected the ideal supplier, not only should you contact the awarded supplier for further engagement, you should also reach out to the left-out suppliers, and inform them about what happened.

After all, it could take many hours for an organization to fill out a request for proposal, hoping to win the contract but failed. And it’s reasonable for them to know what could they have done better from you.

It’s not a mush, but such gesture might be helpful to your future projects and your company profile.

In a nutshell, a request for proposal is too important to be taken lightheartedly. So you should ponder upon your RFP back and forth, to see where can you improve, so as to win the ideal supplier with effective responses.

If you have any question regarding a request for proposal, feel free to reach out. We’d be happy to help.

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