When organizations need certain services or projects completed, they typically use the RFP process. An RFP, or Request for Proposal, is a document that outlines your organization’s specific needs or services and solicits bids from other companies that can complete the project.
Most RFPs include a background of your organization, a description of the project and desired results, milestone expectations, and guidelines for submissions. Organizations share RFPs by inviting vendors to respond directly, through industry news outlets or through other online field-specific websites, and then compare the vendors that respond in order to find the most qualified company to complete the services needed.
Do: Include Detailed Requirements
You want an experienced vendor for the project at hand, so you need to be explicit about your organization’s requirements. Vaguely discussing your needs may get you responses from a greater number of companies, but it will take you longer to narrow down which ones can actually provide the services needed. Also, vendors may not be able to give you accurate timelines or estimates if they don’t understand the scope of what you need. Be clear and communicative from the get-go with your requirements, so that you get the best results and can choose the most skilled vendor.
Do: Thoroughly Inspect References
Once you receive several responses from seemingly qualified companies, follow up on their references to ensure that they’re reliable and are proven to provide quality work. Your RFP should request references, but don’t stop there. After looking into what they provide, do a little research on your own to see if you can double-check their reputation and past experiences.
Do: Create a Detailed Rubric for Primary Requirements
When comparing RFP responses, your organization should have a detailed rubric that highlights your budget, timeline expectations, and other details to score the company against. Everyone involved on your team should be on the same page when it comes to choosing the perfect vendor. A detailed scoring rubric will make it easier to clearly differentiate between so-so vendors and ones that can really get the job done, with everyone in your organization in agreement.
Don’t: Combine Several Projects Into One RFP
Although you may be tempted to kill several birds with one stone, combining different projects with different goals into one RFP will make the process stressful and unorganized. Even if a company rises to the request, your organization should work with vendors that are extremely qualified for each project, not just okay at all of them.
Combining several projects into one RFP may not sufficiently address things such as timelines, internal support for each project, and budgeting for each project. Spend time on a clear RFP for each of your organization’s goals and projects, as this will ensure quality vendors, responses, and a job well done.
Don’t: Give Potential Vendors the Specific Rubric You’ll Score Them Against
In order to honestly gage a company’s strengths and whether or not they are the ones for the job, your RFP should be clear and detailed about what you’re expecting and what you need done. However, this does not mean including a copy of your organization’s scoring rubric in your RFP. You don’t want a potential vendor checking off boxes simply because they see it on paper. You want your potential vendor to be honest and sincere in what they can bring to the table.
Don’t: Select Based Solely on First Impressions or Gut Feelings
A potential vendor can write a dazzling response to your RFP that seems to meet all expectations on the surface, but don’t select a company based purely on first impressions or flashy writing. Do your research, check references, and use your scoring rubric to ensure that a company really is as spectacular as they seem — and if they are, congrats!