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8 RFP Best Practices

A Request for Proposal [RFP] helps to create ideas by having providers and vendors submit plans for services that can improve the bottom line of an organization. Time and money is saved because instead of developing new internal processes or systems, the RFP is able bring in proposals that are efficient and viable.

To make sure the best RFPs possible come in, these best practices have been developed to make sure everyone is on the same page. This way time and money really can be saved.

1. Dictate a specific format.

If an RFP request doesn’t include a specific format, then those who submit them will be left to guess at the format that is desired. All RFPs should be designed so that they are easy to read, but certain components like a table of contents or a cover page can help to summarize an idea without having to read the entire proposal. If information needs to be organized in specific ways, then make sure this information is passed along with the solicitation of an RFP.

2. Attack the problem immediately.

The best RFPs are written like college term papers. Take the first part of the proposal and create a thesis statement that immediately solves the problem that is up for debate. Use the body of the RFP to then specifically describe how the thesis statement can be effectively achieved. Then take the conclusion to summarize the benefits of the proposal, the time frames expected to solve the issue at hand, and add in a subtle call to action at the end to force consideration of the RFP.

3. Make sure the title of the RFP is reflective of its solution.

Many RFP reviews start with an overview of the title only. If the title doesn’t grab the reviewer’s attention, then into the trash goes the proposal. Be descriptive with the title, much like one would with a whitepaper, but don’t make the title an entire paragraph by itself. Offer an abstract section in addition to the title as well so the evaluation of the RFP can be as efficient as possible.

4. Create 1-on-1 contacts with each proposal.

Whether you’re writing the RFP or requesting them, it is important to establish a single point of contact with the organizations involved. Vendors should have one person in contact with the company requesting the RFP and the reviewers should designate one person to handle contacts with each submitted proposal. This eliminates communication confusion and allows for an open channel where questions and answers can be easily sent back and forth.

5. Include contact information.

Although this RFP best practice seems like it would be common sense, it is amazing how many get submitted without proper contact information about who submitted the work. When writing or requesting an RFP, make sure that the cover page has the information about how proposals should be submitted, where proposals should be sent, and what format the proposal should be in. Not only does this result in more effective proposals, it allows people to better communicate with each other.

6. Don’t copy and paste proposals.

To save money, many vendors will just create generic proposals that are copied from one business to the other. Those who review RFPs regularly get very frustrated with how generic and similar some proposals tend to be. Copying and pasting might save time and money, but it also communicates a lack of overall care. If you do review RFPs, make sure to assign project numbers to the proposals received so those generic beauties can be effectively tracked.

7. Background information is critical to success.

Everyone needs to have background information included with the RFP process. Background from the request side helps vendors be able to see the specific problem and create specific resolutions that can solve them. On the submission side, background helps to show that there is a genuine proof of concept being offered instead of an idea that’s just being floated out there.

8. Be proactive about feedback.

Vendors want to know why an RFP wasn’t selected so they can change their processes for future attempts. Those who request an RFP need feedback to determine how effectively certain problems can be solved and be able to budget for them. There’s never enough feedback in the RFP process, so don’t be afraid to share thoughts or benefits. That feedback can be the ticket to everyone’s mutual benefit on a future need.

RFPs are critical to the B2B relationship. It allows businesses to save money, make money, and solve key problems all at the same time. Follow these best practices and the RFPs received or sent will be of a much better quality.

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