So you need to write an RFP. It's a big responsibility. Whether it's your first time doing so or your hundredth, there are 5 things you must do in order for the process to run smoothly from start to finish. Here they are:
1. Bring all the internal stakeholders together early
Today, RFPs of any size involve stakeholders from multiple departments within your company. Bring them all into the conversation from the earliest stages. Define requirements together. It's vital that you get everyone on the same page from the beginning so that they can provide vital feedback about their specific needs. This is also a great way to surface any game-changing issues early.
2. Clearly state the scope of work - be as specific as possible
One issue that always seems to come up at the last minute, after the vendor has been chosen and everyone is ready to move on, is changes in scope. While circumstances change, you should try your best to define the scope of work as clearly as possible. While this is not the most glamorous task, doing this well will yield large dividends as you approach the finish line of the RFP process.
3. Don't forget to ask the basic questions
What do we mean by "basic questions"? Typically, these are questions designed to help you understand your vendors better. Having answers to all these questions in one place will save you time and help you stay organized throughout the RFP and beyond. Here are some of our favorite basic questions - they come pre-populated on all RFPs that are created using ZenPurchase:
i. Please provide name, email, and phone number for the main contact at your company for this project.
ii. Please provide a link to your company’s website.
iii. Where is your company headquarters located?
iv. How many full-time employees currently work at your company?
v. If your company has any publicly available customer case studies, please provide those. If not, if you have any customers who are willing to act as a reference, please provide name, email, phone number, and company name for your reference.
4. Establish the criteria used to evaluate vendor proposals
One of the benefits of bringing internal stakeholders together early is that you can all align on what "good" looks like, and which criteria matter the most. This is important to do early because once the vendor responses start coming in, you and your teammates will start to look through them and each find different things about each vendor that you like. Coming up with a decision-making framework after you've already seen vendor responses is close to impossible, so do it early!
5. Give vendors a forum to ask you clarifying questions
We've all been here before. Vendor A asks you a question. You pass the question off to a colleague, who responds over email. Then, Vendor B asks you the same question 2 days later. By this time, Vendor A needs to clarify your colleague's answer. And now you're staring at your email inbox for 4 hours a day managing this back-and-forth with your colleagues and multiple vendors. Some companies try to manage this by scheduling weekly email blasts to all vendors (don't forget to BCC the vendors!) - but this adds unnecessary delay and leaves room for a lot of error.
Use an online forum instead. We offer one at ZenPurchase for every RFP that uses our software. We handle privacy concerns automatically, so you can't make a fatal mistake. This saves both buyers and vendors so much time, and it adds transparency and urgency to the process, leading to better outcomes for everyone.
(Bonus) Make sure you can compare vendor responses apples-to-apples
You might find yourself in a situation where you've received 3-5 vendor proposals back in response to your RFP, and it is nearly impossible to make a fair comparison between them. This happens because vendors will always frame their responses in a way that makes them look good relative to the competition. For the criteria that are most important to you, it's important to specify the format in which you'll accept responses. With ZenPurchase, customers setting up an RFP can do this easily. Again, this saves them the big headache of having to deal with having to search for specific numbers through multiple 50-page proposals.
If you have any questions about setting up an RFP, or would like to use ZenPurchase to set up your RFP, contact our sourcing experts at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help!