How to write an RFP that suppliers want to respond to

How to write
how to write

How to Write an Effective RFP - Simplify

In writing your last RFP, did you have enough content to make Stevie Wonder appreciate the fact that he’s blind? Or did you have so many attachments you had to physically send a jump drive? Ever get a reply that they’d rather take their chances and try the tide pod challenge? Although extreme, it might be less painful for them in the end!

The digital age we now live in has its distinct advantages.

Loads of information anywhere and anytime you need it. Don’t remember who wrote that song? Google it. Not in front of a computer? Use your phone. Can’t remember how to get to Grandma’s house little Red? Just open your Waze app and find the quickest route to avoid all traffic and tolls.

But there are lots of disadvantages too.

Primarily that our attention spans have widdled down to the point that they more closely resemble a gnat’s. So getting someone to go from checking out You-Tube videos to digesting and producing a concise response to a 20 page RFP, can be more of a challenging than you think. No matter how well written and concise you think you’ve been.

how to write

RFP Technology

Now don’t get me wrong.  With the new E-sourcing tools, we’ve made things so much more streamlined and simplistic for a supplier to respond to RFPs.  But, that still doesn’t mean that we haven’t included an excess of attachments, instructions or questions for them to deal with. Especially when some of our ‘ahem’ old school Procurement colleagues still request suppliers to send print copies of the entire response.

Even including 25 pages worth of background can seem daunting to the most experienced supplier. Especially when their chances of winning the RFP are stacked against them.

That’s why it’s so important when learning how to write an RFP, that you create one that not only will elicit responses but make it easy enough for all company sizes to compete. RFPs shouldn’t have negative ROI for any reason. The playing field should be level.



  • Table of content and links to sections of the RFP. Just do it.
  • Be transparent. Clearly define your needs vs. wants. When they are mixed, suppliers can’t be sure of what your priorities are and what they should focus on. This confusion can cause epic failures of the RFP kind.
  • Go digital. Save a tree and don’t request hand-outs or print material. Mother nature and will thank you.
  • E-Sourcing tools. Use them. Just don’t complicate the ease of the tool by adding extra requirements.
  • Reasonable Timelines. Garbage in garbage out.
  • Put all of the Corporate BS at the end (T&C’s, Confidentiality, et.c) I get it, I really do.  Legal made you do it. So just move it all to the end so nobody has to read it unless they are having trouble falling asleep. Just like this last bullet point.
how to Write



  • Using anything smaller than size 10 font. I’m not that old, but those small fonts do give me headaches!
  • Provide excessive amounts of background information and attachments. Who has time to read war and peace and then respond to a 35 page RFP in two weeks? Nobody, that’s who.
  • Request enough so much information, you can’t review it all. You need enough to properly evaluate and down-select for onsite presentations. Leave the minute details for SOW refinement and follow-up.
  • Creating rigid requirements. Things that don’t bend, tend to break. Don’t break your suppliers, please.
  • Make a supplier who has no chance of winning an RFP, spend countless hours on excel spreadsheets, correcting RFP formatting and other minute details after their initial submission. Show some respect.
how to Write
how to write
how to Write

Treat your suppliers with respect.

Act like they are your neighbor. Be friendly and polite. Invite them over for a drink and conversation. But respect the boundaries that divide you. Because if you let your dog crap in their yard,  you should expect it to be flung back over the fence.

Other RFP blogs Links

: Gone with the RFP     and   The Prequel – Gone with the RFP

how to write
how to Write

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How to write an RFP that suppliers want to respond to 1

4 thoughts on “How to write an RFP that suppliers want to respond to

  1. no longer respond to RFP’s. Most RFP’s are rigged – the winner is pre-selected, and the remainder are send out to make it seem like due diligence is done.

    Or the customer can be digging for the lowest price. You don’t want to get all of the low-price business, or you’ll go out of business.

    Responding to RFP’s is time-consuming, and I am not eager to be in a pile of 14.

    I get my new business by referral or from cold calls. In each case, I’m generally in a class of 1 or get favored status.

    My recommendation is not to send out RFP’s.

    Instead, reach out to one or several and make personal contacts with each. Many suppliers are weary and leery of wasting time responding to RFP’s. The further away you can be from having a form that they have to fill out or format to follow and have them think that they are one of 14 who will be considered, the more likely you are going to get what you want.

Start a conversation and leave your thoughts below!