In this blog, we're taking a look at one of our (least) favorite topics: RFP Spam. For more information on identifying and avoiding RFP spam check out some our previous discussions:
- Stop Picking Your Procurement BPO Provider Based on Price Alone!
- eSourcing Tools are Not Tail Spend Management
- The 3 Bid Process is Often Just Another Form of RFP Spam
- Stop RFP Spamming
At their best, Requests for Proposals are valuable fact-finding tools. By casting an appropriately wide net, organizations can identify and begin to engage the supply chain partners they’re looking for. Many organizations, however, don’t exercise the proper care throughout the RFP design and administration stages. In search of meaningful partnerships, they wind up flooding the market with RFP spam.
What is RFP Spam?Typically, the process of sending out RFP spam means sending out a glut of RFPs and RFIs to the supply base without putting in much effort to customize the documents or define the appropriate audience. RFP spam is usually done intentionally. Most organizations know what they’re doing. They recognize that their chances of success are low, but they still lean on these ineffective practices rather than shaking things up. Occasionally, however, RFP spam is sent out innocently - as a result of errors or misinformation.
Types of RFP SpamEmails to Generic Addresses
This is perhaps the most common form of RFP spam. Email address issues usually occur when buyers spend just a few minutes researching and collecting e-mail addresses for potential contacts. Generic emails usually appear as “firstname.lastname@example.org” or “Sales@company.com.” Procurement teams then load these emails into systems and set out RFPs in bulk. Problems arise when the email is delivered. Usually, the recipient has no information relevant to the project. More often than not, they’ll label the document spam and neglect to pass it along.
Hard-Copy RFP Spam
This error is similar to using generic email address, but tends to prove even more costly.. This method of RFP spamming involves collecting the physical addresses of supplier locations and to mail them physical copies of an RFP. This method is fueled by misconceptions. Remember, just because you send a physical copy does not legitimize your RFP. If a hard copy of an RFP is generic and arrives without warning, it’s just as likely to end up in the trash as an email.
This method, while usually a bit cheaper and more effective than the ones lifted above, still has its faults. In this scenario, the buyer “improves” the process by filling out a generic email template. This template will provide a brief overview of the project in question and a summary of supplier requirements. After the initial email, buyers will send the actual RFP. If no response is given, Procurement typically sends another template email in search of a response. As you can probably imagine, this method tends to annoy suppliers and lead them to disengage.
RFPs to the Wrong Company
You might not believe it, but this actually happens quite frequently. If a buyer spends too little time researching what a company actually does, they might mistakenly believe a company can meet Procurement’s needs. Such a situation is both embarrassing and costly.
What Causes RFP Spam?There are many reasons why buyers send out RFP spam, and they are all problematic. Your company’s RFP will be much better received and responded to if you consciously avoid the traps outlined above. Here are a few of the factors that might be standing in the way of successful RFPs and strategic supplier relationships.
RFPs are Treated as a Formality
This occurs when your sourcing team has already made the decision to select a particular supplier or solution, but internal policy/law requires your team to submit a certain number of RFPs. When you treat an RFP as a formality, it tends to read like one.
Procurement Puts too Much Trust in Tech
A lot of Procurement teams are under the impression that implementing an expensive piece of technology will somehow make the sourcing events more effective. Neglecting the human element, however, can mean sending RFPs that confuse and annoy suppliers. Never let the promise of a new solution convince you that a dedicated team of savvy professionals in unnecessary.
Procurement Lacks Resources
Some organizations simply don’t have everything they need to administer an effective RFP. Without the right people, tools, or processes, they’re stuck sending out generic RFPs and hoping for the best.
Procurement Hasn’t Trained its Team
A lot of Procurement professionals don’t even know the difference between a well-designed RFP and spam. Without the proper training, they might have no idea why they’re failing to get a response from suppliers.
The Organization Has an Elitist or Entitled Attitude
Sometimes RFP spam isn’t such an innocent mistake. In many instances, it’s evidence of an attitude problem. Buyers from name-brand firms may assume that suppliers are dying to do business with them. As a result, they’ll send out RFPs with little effort and expect suppliers to take the bait.
It’s sad but true - some professionals are just plain lazy. Many buyers simply repeat the same ineffective processes again and again in an attempt to get away with doing the bare minimum. Maybe the organization has had success with RFP spam in the past? Whatever the case, falling into this bad habit can prove disastrous for both the individual buyer and the organization as a whole.
Avoiding RFP SpamPut yourself in the supplier’s shoes. What would you want to see? What would catch your eye? Every buyer should take a moment to think about these questions before committing to an RFP. Once they’ve attempted to see things from both sides, they’ll have a better understanding of how they can engage prospective suppliers and avoid winding up in the trash.
In training its resources, Procurement should also emphasize that there’s no such thing as a “one size fits all” RFP. By making this clear, the organization can ensure no one resource ever relies too heavily on templates or well-worn processes.
Need a little extra help? Why not reach out to the RFx Design and RFx Administration team at Source One. We’ll support you in crafting documents that won’t just reach the right suppliers, but inspire these suppliers to join your Procurement team as partners.