For business-savvy organizations, requests for proposal (RFPs) aren’t just simple procurement tactics. To them, each RFP represents an opportunity to drive value by engaging both future partners and stakeholders.
Writing a strong and effective RFP is a key driver to bring in great proposals that ultimately lead to strong vendor relationships. Conceptually, it’s simply. Great RFP leads to great supplier participation and better evaluation criteria. Then, you’re in a position to evaluate an optimally broad pool of responses along the specific dimensions that matter to your company. But while this is conceptually easy, putting it into practice requires work. So how do you develop a powerhouse team that consistently delivers great RFPs?
Here are 7 tips on how to write a good RFP:
1. Focus on creating a great executive summary
Everyone knows that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. On the other hand, when your RFP is stacked along with dozens of others, you can basically expect the recipients of your RFPs to judge them within the first page. You need your prospective providers to be engaged to maximize the chances of their participating. This is one reason why paying more attention to your executive summary should be a key priority.
The executive summary should clearly convey the scope of your organization’s needs and underscore the opportunity for the chosen supplier. While your RFP is not a marketing document per se, You want it to make it compelling, and at the same time, provide ample information about your company and project.
2. Be brief and keep it simple
One of the biggest challenges in the RFP process is trying to create a proposal that isn’t peppered with jargon and buzzwords to muddle the message. And when it involves pages upon pages of seemingly irrelevant questions to be addressed, it might actually just put the vendor off. (Not to mention that a meandering or overdone RFP will be much more time-consuming to run and difficult to evaluate.) With this in mind, remember that it’s important for RFPs to be carefully crafted so that it draws quality proposals.
If you are seeking quality responses, then you’re well served by being succinct. Instead of taking the “more is the better” route, keep your document brief and focus on your objectives, without a lot of deviation.
3. Cover all your bases
Write your request for proposal with the goal that none of your key questions will be left unanswered, i.e., make sure that you are able to narrow down your list of prospective providers based on responses to your questionnaire. When your team and stakeholders sit down to do the evaluation, you want them to be scoring targeted, well-defined answers provided by the vendors.
4. Clarify your objectives and evaluation criteria
The RFP is a step towards achieving a business goal — it must fulfill a purpose. Don’t lose sight of that while writing your RFP. Otherwise, the proposals you receive risk not meeting your objectives. Before you even begin drafting the request, make sure you conduct an internal discovery process to understand and differentiate between the needs and wants of the stakeholders. In addition, it can be useful to share the RFP with stakeholders before sending it out to suppliers. This way, you can determine whether you are on target by testing it internally. If your colleagues are confused, it’s likely that your vendors will be too. If that’s the case, reevaluate and make the necessary adjustments to ensure your RFP is clear and focused.
5. Take care when using copy and paste
Thoughtlessly copying and pasting an RFP in its entirety and submitting it to vendors is rarely a good idea. You might have a foundation of content or template to get you started, but keep in mind that effective RFPs are customized and tailored to fit specific business needs. Think of a template — or a previous RFP with content that you can leverage — as the equivalent of a running start. It should help you get to the finish line faster, but not excuse you from running the race.
6. Proofread your document
Typos and grammatical errors in your RFP do nothing to communicate the professionalism and credibility of your organization. If you want to receive quality proposals, then you’ll help yourself by paying attention to the little details that exhibit a strong focus on quality.
7. Ask thoughtful, constructive questions
You want your RFP to draw actionable data from the responses of potential vendors. To achieve this, avoid stock questions unless the answers to them will provide meaningful insights in your evaluation process. Bear in mind that the goal is to generate responses that highlight a vendor’s capabilities as they specifically relate to your wants and requirements. Investing time to ensure that your RFP questionnaire is up to snuff should certainly pay dividends.
Did we cover everything? If you have experience writing RFPs and have more tips to share, feel free to tell us all about it below.
The RFP process is critical for businesses who want to attract suppliers that are best suited to meet their business goals. The process can be tedious, but technology now allows companies to automate much of the process. For a comprehensive explanation on how Vendorful can help you write better RFPs and drive quality responses,get in touch with us today.