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Bad RFPs and 7 Ways to Make Them Better

September 16, 2014 by Hillary Ohlmann

RFP sheet

We here at DeltaBid have seen many, many RFPs. After all, we are dedicated to making the process easier for both buyers and suppliers. From those RFPs, we’ve learned what buyers should and shouldn’t do when creating an event.

Let’s take a look at an example. Here is what you should NOT do:

We kindly ask you to send us bids regarding building us a new company website.

Believe it or not, we have actually seen RFPs exactly like this. While it may seem short, sweet and to the point, it is, in fact, anything but. It lets suppliers know the company is looking for bids, but its lack of information is going to create more work down the line.

Why is that bad?

First off, let’s look at what exactly is missing. This one sentence request doesn’t answer any of the following questions:

  • What does the current website look like?
  • What do they expect from a new website?
  • What is the deadline for bids?
  • Has a design already been developed?
  • Do the bids need to include VAT?

And we could go on. For suppliers to make informed bids, they are going to need answers to these questions. That may not seem like a problem, but as each supplier sends you lists of questions, you’ll be required to respond to them, one by one. It’s an inefficient, time-consuming process that could have been avoided by providing a more detailed request in the first place.

How can it be better?

Here is an example of a good, basic RFP.

  • Introduction: The intent of this RFP is to provide interested vendors with sufficient information to enable them to prepare and submit proposals for a new company website and e-commerce platform.
  • About the project: This RFP is soliciting proposals from qualified contractors with demonstrated, relevant experience for designing a new website and e-commerce platform for moving van rentals.
  • About the quotes: Quotes should include the cost of design, technical troubleshooting, and all necessary local taxes.
  • Restrictions: The entire project must be functional no later than September 15.
  • Expectations: Interested vendors should attach references and samples of work from previous clients along with filling in the itemized list found in the attachments.
  • Additional specifications can be found in the attached documents.
  • Attached documents: brand information, design preferences with images, list of areas to be included in the company page, text for pages, images and information for the available fleet of moving vehicles, itemized list.

This is the idea: provide the suppliers with enough information to allow them to develop their proposals without having to ask too many additional questions.

Don't know what to request from suppliers regarding a specific RFP?

If you’re a first-time buyer of a particular product or service or if you feel as if you don’t have the proper expertise to know exactly what to request from suppliers, there a couple things you could do before setting up your RFP.

First, try contacting several different suppliers. Simply ask them what information they need to develop a competitive bid.
Second, contact an expert. Use your network to ask for background information from buyers who have already successfully procured the goods or services you are looking to buy.

7 Things to Include in a Good RFP

As a guideline, there are seven areas you should include in your RFPs.

  1. Company introduction (essential for new suppliers to help generate trust)
  2. Detailed description of the proposed project, including images
  3. Detailed information about the bidding process: format, what additional costs to include – e.g. VAT and transportation
  4. Deadline: give suppliers enough time (usually two weeks) while also giving yourself enough time to run another event should you fail to get enough bids
  5. Expectations: references, samples of previous work or materials, completed forms, etc.
  6. *Questionnaire to help you get to know new suppliers better
  7. Expected start and end dates

* You might consider asking about years on the market, quality standards, turnover rate, etc.

By taking the time to add this additional information, you will save time and make your RFP process more efficient.


download free guide to rfp process best practices

Hillary Ohlmann

Written by Hillary Ohlmann

Hillary is DeltaBid's resident writer, copy editor, researcher, and all-around procurement enthusiast. She holds a degree in Journalism and Spanish from UW-Madison.


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