Here at Source One, we have been discussing the importance of proper communication a lot lately, and for good reason. Effective business communication translates into dollars, especially when it comes to developing a Request For Proposal (RFP). Here are some best practices for communication during the RFP process:

1. Standardize the methods and processes used for publication of the RFP. This may include creating a style guide or category templates for your business to utilize for each RFP. Consider using an e-procurement tool such as for your RFP administration.
2. Provide rules and procedures for any communication between bidders and individuals other than the RFP administrator. When suppliers circumvent the established lines of communication, it can confuse the process. All communication from the buyer side should be agreed upon beforehand by the participating suppliers and run through those established methods of communication.
3. Identify the preferred or common communication methods of bidders. This will ensure a proactive approach in their responses. For example, not every supplier may be tech-savvy, or a supplier may respond more promptly to emails rather than phone calls.
4. Clearly mark the bidding instructions. It is amazing how often bidders do not carefully read the bid instructions. Make sure they are prominent and clearly defined. Follow-up communications with bidders should address any questions on the instructions.
5. If you are purchasing in a consulting role, proactively schedule regular updates with your internal customers or clients. This will ensure that they are up-to-date on the latest information. Consider a weekly or bi-weekly status meeting.
6. Clearly communicate in the RFP your general criteria for the Proposal Evaluation process. If demonstrations or site visits are part of the proposal evaluation, include this information.
7. Document any unethical communications from bidders, such as personal gift offers or bribes.

The RFP brings structure to the sourcing process and is critical to helping both buyers and suppliers develop an understanding of the category. Without proper communication, suppliers will not properly address the scope of services and pricing requirements desired by the buyer, which can skew the evaluation process. The time, money, and other resources spent correcting communication breakdowns and misunderstandings can diminish the value of a properly executed sourcing event. A properly-planned and constructed RFP can actually improve the sourcing process and lead to even greater savings.
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Scott Decker

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