10 tips for the perfect RFP
Agiito's Head of Bid Management, Stuart Tandy, shares his top tips for getting the most out of your next RFP
1. Involve a varied internal stakeholder group but speak with one voice
At the very beginning of the procurement process, it is critical to identify all key stakeholders and involve them in the process of creating the RFP. However, when RFPs are the work of large teams, each with varying needs and expectations, multiple viewpoints can often make comprehension difficult and also lead to the duplication of essentially the same or very similar questions. It is essential that one person ultimately owns or leads the project and is responsible for ensuring that all the different stakeholder perspectives are merged into a single voice.
2. Research the market and be selective
Issuing an RFP to many potential suppliers can put unnecessary strain on internal resources so consider using a pre-qualification stage to enable you to filter down to a more manageable shortlist of bidders for the RFP stage. Consider using a MoSCoW prioritisation approach where bidders can state their level of compliance (full, partial or non-compliance) to your defined scope of requirements of ‘must haves’ and ‘nice to haves’. That way you, you get to a group of suppliers you know can deliver what you need and can then use the RFP to ask more interesting questions around how the bidder will help you achieve goals and address challenges.
3. Engage with bidders and have realistic timeframes
Be prepared to have some dialogue with bidders during the process. You can still share the outputs of any engagement with other bidders to ensure a fair and proper process. A faceless procurement process with no engagement and everything conducted electronically will put off a lot of bidders, particularly those suppliers that have received the bid opportunity completely unsolicited. Never issue an RFP and then go on leave. There’s nothing more frustrating than submitting a clarification only to get the procurement lead’s ‘out-of-office’! And give an appropriate timeframe for submission. If it’s a complex RFP with a significant response requirement and you only give two to three weeks, don’t be surprised if you get a cut-and-paste job.
4. Define your specification / scope of requirements
If you don’t know what your requirements are, how do you expect prospective suppliers to know? Ensure you invest time to create a clearly defined scope of requirements because if anything is vague or poorly written, you are likely to receive vague proposals which can result in vague, poorly written contracts and give all parties major headaches. As discussed above, when defining your specification, think about what is most important to you – that is, what MUST you have? What other aspects are merely desirable “nice to haves” you can live without? Being clear about these criteria, and ranking them by importance, helps set clear expectations.
5. State your goals, objectives, problems and challenges
When all is said and done, all TMCs pretty much do the same things; we book travel for you or enable travellers to do it themselves using an online self-booking tool, we implement measures to drive compliance to policy and seek approval when required, we negotiate preferred programmes, and we provide reporting. So, if you simply ask the same old capability-led questions, you will likely get very similar responses which then makes it impossible to differentiate between the bidders and this can ultimately lead to a solely price-based decision.
The RFP should be less about what suppliers can do (address this in the RFI – see number 2 above) but be more focused on how they do it and the value that delivers to your business. By focusing on challenges and objectives, and asking how a bidder will help you respectively overcome and meet them, you will be much better placed to differentiate between potential suppliers.
6. Explain your evaluation criteria or methodology
Whilst it might seem counterintuitive to share how you are going to evaluate bid submissions, defining what criteria really matter to you and your organisation allows bidders to write about their strengths in those areas. It also helps you identify those suppliers that just don’t seem to understand your organisation or sector.
7. Ask for evidence and quantifiable proof points
To validate both capability and performance be sure to ask for references and case studies from the bidder’s client portfolio. Case studies are a great way to judge both how well-established the supplier is and how well they understand your organisation and/or industry sector.
8. Enable an ‘apples with apples’ commercial comparison
Without meaningful data regarding your travel spend profile and the complexity of your travel requirements, it is very difficult to provide a meaningful commercial proposal. Also, by sharing data you will enable bidders to suggest an achievable savings plan over the contract lifetime.
Providing a pricing template to be completed can be useful in enabling a like-for-like comparison but e-auctions should only be considered if they are governed by a very tight scope and definitions, or they can result in a race to an undeliverable bottom line. Finally, ask for suppliers’ standard terms and conditions or ask bidders to provide a commentary on your own terms, identifying any showstoppers early will save both parties wasted time and effort.
9. Always ask for or allow an Executive Summary
An Executive Summary will help you get to know the bidder very quickly – who they are, their values, their infrastructure and their experience. It will demonstrate how well they understand your business, what’s causing you headaches and what you want to achieve. It should then explain at a high level how they are going to help solve your problems and meet your objectives. It should provide you with the comfort that you have found the perfect travel partner for your organisation.
10. Provide open and honest feedback
Bidders invest a lot of time and effort responding to RFPs so it is essential that you take the time to provide frank and honest feedback. It is the only way suppliers can understand any shortcomings in their proposition and continuously improve, which can only be a benefit when you next go to market.