Vendors are Human Too

We've had the chance to review dozens and dozens of RFPs every year. Some are concise, clear in their intent, and signal prospective bidders that the issuing organizations know what they are doing. Others, frankly, are a mess: they're fraught with inconsistencies, incomplete information, unrealistic expectations, and inappropriate requirements. Badly written and/or discourteous RFPs discourage participation in the bidding process, often soliciting responses that don't fit the bill--overall, they waste everybody's time and reflect poorly on the issuing organization.

We'd like to make some suggestions that ensure RFPs elicit on-the-mark proposals from a qualified pools of respondents.

  • Allow adequate time for bidders to develop their proposals--at least four weeks.
  • Provide up front the name and contact information of the person to whom the proposal should be sent and the date and time when it is due (never immediately before or after a holiday).
  • Clearly and concisely review the background and purpose of the project, the anticipated timeline, and deliverables.
  • Specify a budget or at least a budget range. This enables vendors to make educated decisions about whether or not they should respond and how to craft a response that is appropriate to the budget.
  • Explain the evaluation criteria and process.
  • Acknowledge that we are in the twenty-first century and allow electronic attendance at pre-proposal meetings and electronic submissions or proposals.
  • After submission, acknowledge proposal receipt and let bidders know when they might hear back.
  • Especially if there is an unforeseen delay, update bidders about the timing of decisions.
  • If an in-person interview is required of finalists, allow enough time between notification and presentation to enable vendors to prepare and, if at a distance, to secure reasonably priced airfare.
  • On contract ratification, promptly notify firms not awarded the contract; tell them how many RFPs were received, the name of the winning firm, and an offer to provide feedback on their proposals.

Just our two cents from the vendor side.