RFPs take time to produce, to complete, and to review. Make sure they are worth the investment by following these five critical guidelines:

  1. Don’t use RFPs as market research. RFPs should not be the first step in solution research. Instead, they should address business needs directly. Serious vendors/bidders can spot feelers (disguised as RFPs) a mile away and will not take the time to respond. If you don’t know your exact business need yet, issue a short RFI to help establish it.

  2. Make your RFP simple and specific. Some RFPs are too vague, giving the impression that the project is huge and complex when it really isn’t. Government institutions frequently make this mistake, especially when seeking out procurement software. Since it takes time and effort to respond to such RFPs, only vendors that are less in demand or are large enough to afford this investment will do so. The end result: you will not receive proposals from top vendors, particularly from small or midsized companies that can offer more flexible solutions, licensing structures, and pricing.

  3. Provide as much detail as you can. Remember to include business need, use cases, number of users and the evaluation criteria you will use to grade the proposals. Take the time to carefully articulate your needs; that way, you will reap proposals for solutions tailored to those exact specifications. Vendors cannot deliver exactly what you need if you don’t ask.

  4. Don’t attach legal agreements to RFPs. Adding such components will delay the completion process because vendor legal teams need to get involved. In virtually all cases, software companies won’t be able to accept third party legal agreements, or to negotiate the terms of their own agreements. “Companies buying software must understand that software companies cannot engage in custom legal agreements with every client,” explains Jason Berman, Sales Engineer at Agiloft. “Changing the terms means exposing the software company to unacceptable levels of risk, which can hurt its existing clients.”

  5. Expect RFPs to take time on both sides: Creating an effective RFP and skillfully drafting a response to it are both labor-intensive processes. Assume that software vendors will take several weeks to respond, and might be in touch with vital questions. Allow for sufficient time to respond to your RFP, or the only responses you get will be rushed ones that aren’t specific to your requirements.