3 things NOT to do when creating an RFP

3 Things NOT to do when creating an RFPIf you manage contract services or buy them, you probably believe you know how to write a Request for Proposal (RFP).

You likely do.

It just may be a bad one.

And bad RFPs waste everyone’s time, cause confusion, and stick you with bad buys when the whole buying process is done.

A good RFP is more than copying specifications into Procurement’s boilerplate.

Since we’re all good at writing RFPs (in our own minds), I don’t want to waste time with “How to write an RFP”.

Instead, avoid these three ways to really screw up an RFP and you’ll be closer to getting your desired buying outcomes.

#1) Don’t write statements & expect responses 

You’d be surprised how often RFPs will list requirements or specifications and instruct suppliers to write responses to them.

Don’t write statements and expect answers, such as:

“We require our supplier to implement a standardized Quality Assurance program across our 100 North American locations.”

Otherwise, suppliers may legitimately respond with:

“Yep, we’ll do just what you stated.”

And how can you blame them? Do this instead: Write a question, such as:

“How will you implement a standardized Quality Assurance program across our 100 North American locations?”

Because isn’t’ that what you really want to know? Whomever you contract will have to comply with your specifications anyway. You want to know how suppliers will get it done so you can choose the best one.

#2) Don’t write several questions under the same numbered question

Here’s a guaranteed RFP frustration, one that bunches several similar requests all under a single RFP question:

“3.2 How will you motivate your employees? What incentives will you offer? How will you hire employees for top performance? How will you track their performance? What will you do to correct their service deficiencies?

 Don’t do it.

Otherwise, be prepared to lose track of answers  in the dense crush of responses to the first part of the question – while missing out on responses to the latter parts.

Remove the confusion, consolidate similar questions into one meaningful one.

Alternatively, if you want more detail under a higher level question, ADD a new numbered question and step the numbering down a level, such as from 1.1 to 1.1.1 to show it’s related to its parent question.

But please don’t jam a bunch of text questions under a single number. You’re not paying by the number, so use them freely for clarity’s sake.

#3) Don’t spread RFP questions across several documents 

I know it sounds crazy but I’ve seen far too many RFP instructions that direct suppliers to:

“Respond to:
* Questions 1 – 8 in Appendix G – Quality Assurance
* Questions 9-13 in Attachment B, and
* Sustainability programs listed in ABCXYZ_Sustainability_Requirements.pdf.”

For your ease of review, and suppliers’ peace of mind – keep all questions in the same document/attachment/appendix. Make it a single location that they can work from and review against. You’ll be glad you did, especially if you ever have more than 20 questions in your RFP.


There are likely a gajillion more ways to botch an RFP’s creation. But do we really want to face the truth about our RFP writing prowess?

Be smart and avoid these three.

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