A Request for Proposal (RFP) has long been the standard bidding method of many U.S. companies. Further, for heavily regulated industries, such as healthcare, it’s the only method.
Whether preferred or required, an RFP is only successful if it solicits the right type of vendors. The right vendors are those who can effectively solve a company’s business needs. RFPs are costly and must be done right. Whether you’re a government, an enterprise, or a growing business, RFPs cost money and need to find the right vendor.
But what makes a successful RFP?
A significant part of that is getting the right people to the table during the RFP process. These internal voices are critical to ensuring the objectives and goals of your RFP capture the full organizational goals and objectives of your project.
Ask yourself the following questions to help guide you.
Your targeted service or product will likely touch multiple working groups across your organization. Depending on the scope of your project, the impact can be broad, including Operations, Sales, Manufacturing, Finance, Legal, and even HR (if the project has some impact on specific teams or corporate culture).
As such, your RFP team should include a representative from each affected group. This individual will help ensure the RFP solution covers his or her group’s needs.
RFPs are costly, and further, the projects they solicit are tied to real spending. As such, it’s crucial that your RFP team involves someone from your Finance team. This individual will be essential in keeping your overall RFP spend under control, defining the actual vendor budget, and reviewing the vendor fee proposals at the time of submission.
In a perfect world, your team would agree on every RFP developed in your office — unanimously deciding if it’s worth issuing or not. Alas, most offices are anything than perfect.
Because let’s face it, we humans are all different.
A project that may look favorable to your Ops team may not look too juicy to your Finance group and vice versa. And as such, they’ll likely have very different opinions on whether an RFP should be issued or not.
While it’s not likely that one single voice can decide if an RFP should be built, there’s a good chance that one dissenting voice can shut things down.
As such, building consensus within the team is critical. (After all, consensus leads to collaboration, and collaborative teams are more likely to reach a shared decision).
There are different techniques teams can use to achieve successful consensus decision making — from scored multi-voting to priority identification and others.
Ultimately, a project group’s leadership must decide and embrace, the techniques best suited to the group structure and ensure all members are trained and empowered to fully participate in the process.
While not entirely a legally binding document, an RFP does present some legal risks. As such, like with your Financial team involvement, it’s critical that your legal counsel (in-house or hired) vets your RFP. This individual or individuals will help ensure the language used throughout the RFP does not jeopardize your organization legally and unwittingly bind contractually with your prospective vendors.
Your RFP will likely be written by multiple authors across your organization — each with their own writing style and tone (for better or worse). To ensure the RFP achieves clarity from front to back, it’s important that consistency in style and tone is also maintained throughout. This is why we recommend including someone on your RFP team who will manage the overall content of your RFP. This will likely be someone on your in-house marketing team or an external marketing consultant who specializes in RFP compilation.