RFP Evaluation Time? Here’s How to Pick the Right Vendor
Finding the right vendor is never easy. When your business issues a Request for Proposals (RFP), it is forming the foundation for a relationship that may last years. It’s critical to get this decision right, so having a proper RFP evaluation process is key.
At The Bid Lab, we help clients on both sides of the proposal process: those requesting and submitting bids. This gives us a unique understanding of each perspective. And, this dual perspective provides insight into the often-overlooked world of evaluations. I’m sharing five (5) actionable tips that will help ensure that your new business relationship is starting in the best possible position.
Start the Evaluation Process by Researching Vendors
To get a more comprehensive picture of your potential new vendor, search for recent news items. You can use a free tool like Google News search or leverage paid databases like LexisNexis. One advantage of these paid databases is that they often provide information on past court cases and other potential legal issues. For instance, has the vendor been party to any lawsuits or allegations of fraud? You don’t want surprises to arise after signing a new contract.
Newsworthy results about the vendor you’re considering can provide helpful information, such as past contracts (and potentially even contract rates the vendor has charged). It can also illuminate past accolades or accomplishments that may be relevant.
Look for Diverse References
The vast majority of evaluations feature a request for references to provide insight into vendors’ prowess and past performance. These real-world examples offer a valuable window into your potential partner’s capabilities. However, it’s always smart to make sure your RFP evaluation includes a diverse sample pool.
A company with a proven track record of success is essential, but a company that has delivered for clients in multiple contexts is even better. When you’re checking a vendor’s references and performance capacity during an RFP evaluation, don’t forget to look for:
- Regional diversity among their projects
- Variety of project scope
- Integration with different types/levels of technology
Pay Attention to Visuals
While the content of your potential vendor’s proposal will be the most dominant factor, considering the proposal’s presentation can prove useful. This is especially helpful when deciding on finalists with similar capacities.
A firm that can buoy their proposal with design elements may offer a glimpse of their approach to collaboration. If a vendor is taking the time to make its proposal more digestible for you to review, it stands to reason that they’re more likely to go the extra mile for your project as well. It also is a testament that they did not rush through your request or throw something together at the last minute.
Furthermore, a vendor with the resources and expertise to add visual components to their proposal may demonstrate an added competence that could give your project the boost it needs for even greater success.
Take Advantage of Multiple RFP Evaluation Selection Rounds
When searching for the perfect vendor through an RFP process, ensure you’re not picking your winner too quickly. A selection process that includes multiple evaluation rounds can often be a huge help. Consider adding a stage to your process for selected finalists. That way, you can demonstrate to multiple vendors that you’re seriously considering their proposal. This will also allow them to share additional information.
If a vendor knows their basic price and product offerings are close to what you’re looking for, they’re often more inclined to proffer additional information. They may even offer discounts or other inducements to close the deal. Invite finalists to give a presentation. Use this to ask any remaining questions your team may have at this stage of the RFP evaluation.
Involve the Whole Team in the Evaluation Process
A diverse group of internal reviewers will give your RFP process a more comprehensive assessment. Work to include members of your team that bring different areas of expertise to the table. For example, staff directly involved in production can ensure that all technical criteria are properly evaluated. And, employees focused on finances can review proposals through a cost-benefit lens. Providing your full team is represented in the evaluation process will not only help you pick the right vendor, but will also contribute to broader buy-in once the project begins.
When searching for your next vendor, these evaluation tips will help your organization make an informed decision. Concrete factors like price and timeline are still vital, but a more holistic approach to your evaluation process will pay dividends throughout the project lifecycle. So, investing time and effort into evaluation will help protect your business from buyer’s remorse and ensure you’re on the right path forward.
You Don’t Have to Go It Alone
At The Bid Lab, we help organizations of all sizes perfect their vendor evaluation process. If you need assistance building or managing your vendor search or any RFP evaluation analysis, reach out! Get in touch and ask about a free consultation by calling 1-844-4BIDLAB or by emailing email@example.com.