Perhaps no part of a strategic sourcing initiative commands more attention and carries more importance than the 'RFx' stage.  It is here that relationships are formed and product and services are supported. It's never a good idea to go into anything blind, but entering this stage without the necessary information could prove especially costly.

Once you've identified suppliers, the most common next step is to send out an RFI.  The information provided will help to flesh out your understanding of the supply base and hopefully develop a new shortlist of potential suppliers.  Serving as a transitional step between research and sourcing, a good RFI should help you enter the latter phase with confidence.  Consider the following next time you request information from a supplier:

1.  Pick up the Phone

Do not send an email to potential suppliers before reaching out by phone.  The importance of a person-to-person connection cannot be overstated.  A phone call imbues the process with a personal touch, helps establish rapport, and could give you a better sense of how the supplier would like to approach future discussions.

2. Do your Research

You should not count on the RFI to provide all or even most of your market intelligence.  The best RFIs fill in the few gaps left behind after exhaustive research and comprehensive study. Without this research, you can hardly expect to ask the right questions.  Without the right questions, you certainly won't get useful answers.

3. Know When to Skip this Step

It's entirely possible an RFI isn't necessary.  Sometimes comprehensive research provides enough information to confidently move forward.  Remember,  just because it 'wouldn't hurt' to issue one does not mean it'll help.  Sending out an unnecessary RFI reduces efficiency and could even sour your relationship with an interested supplier.

Now that you've received and assessed all the necessary information, you're ready to develop your sourcing strategy and go to market.  Before you send out an RFP, however, you should take care to remember these simple guidelines:

1. Be Supplier Friendly

Present your suppliers with an open-ended RFP.  Avoid convoluted design and language.  A straightforward document will look more inviting and encourage suppliers to present their offers more enthusiastically.  An open-ended format also allows the supplier to provide their own creative ideas and solutions.  By fostering a spirit of collaboration, you increase your chances of building an amicable relationship.

2. More is Less

A needlessly detailed RFP can put strain on a supplier relationship before it's even begun. Imagine the faces of the sales team tasked with leafing through your pages and pages of unnecessary information.  An effective RFP should introduce the buyer and specify their needs as concisely and openly as possible.  Make sure to read the document line by line and remove any fluff before sending it to market

3. Establish Connections

Let your prospective suppliers know an RFP is on its way.  Take the necessary time to explain the process and the role you each play in its completion.  Make sure the supplier knows exactly what to expect.  Follow up throughout the duration of your sourcing event to check in and answer any questions they might have.  Putting in the work to personalize these interactions could mean a stronger and more sustainable relationship with your future supplier.

Putting together an effective RFP is hard work, but those efforts will definitely pay off. Making a good first impression shows potential suppliers that you're eager to enter into a collaborative and mutually beneficial agreement.

Source One recognizes the importance of the finding the perfect supplier. That's why we've spent decades providing the insights and tools necessary for our clients to succeed in strategic sourcing.  Contact Source One's proposal experts today to learn how we can help you attract and retain the supplier you've been looking for.

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