Was this RFP a Complete Circus, Screw-up or a Trainwreck? You Decide!

Was this RFP a Complete Circus, Screw-up or a Trainwreck? You Decide! 1

When you see a RFP trainwreck coming, you typically move out of the way. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t anything I could do.  I was stuck on the tracks with that look of a deer in headlights plastered all over my face.

I tried to give advice and best practices, but they just as quickly dismissed any insight I tried to provide. My persistence didn’t work either.

Maybe they were right. What could global sourcing know about working with suppliers? So I gave my business partners exactly what they asked for with this RFP. *Cue Circus Music*

Let’s take a look back at what went wrong with one of my most recent RFPs. Hopefully, I’m just overreacting, but I’ll let you be the judge to how bad it truly was. I’m sure it will make it on norfps.org radar either way.

The Absurd RFP Timeline


I understand the business has strict timelines. They are under a lot of pressure to get things done and quickly.  That’s fine. But giving suppliers a total of a month with Q&A a week before it’s due, doesn’t seem fair. Or reasonable.

And then to pose it as a ‘challenging’ is just not right. Especially if you have a small budget, when your competition spends tens of millions, and you’re well into single digits, you can rest assured no one is going even to try, which is why I tried to warn the team.

Let’s be honest –  who cares what the opportunity is if there is a negative ROI in supporting it? 

I did mention I’ve seen half of the suppliers drop out during a similar process. Especially when you don’t give them extra time past the Q&A. But the team said I was wrong, so I sucked it up and caved. Therefore, when the emails started dropping in like dead flies, I wasn’t surprised. More embarrassed than anything.

Especially when more than half did drop out the day the submission was due. Ouch. So when the team seemed upset as their favorites sent their regrets, I had to keep my mouth closed (which was hard!) not to say I told you so. And at that point, it was too little too late to get them to change their minds.

A Ridiculous Amount of Suppliers


On the note more than half of all suppliers not submitting a response, I’ll say we probably shouldn’t have included 15+ anyways. That’s typically what we see in an RFI to down-select before the long proposal stage. And why I suggested it…oh well. At least I had an e-sourcing tool to manage it all — sort of.

Funny enough, when I was later asked, “who is going to read all of these responses?” I should have been more clear with my answer.  Because even if all the suppliers submitted responses and I read them all myself to give you the cliff notes they insinuated, I can’t make the final decision. Which is why I said “the team.” And I meant the entire team.

Do the math. If you have just 10 suppliers with 70+ page respones, you might as well stick them all in a clown car. Because it’s going to feel like they are never-ending, when you do go to read through them.

Similar RFP Articles:

How to Write an RFP

Gone with the RFP

Broken RFP Promises


Now I don’t blame the suppliers involved, I felt bad for them. They requested just a couple of items, and neither were provided back. Ever. The internal team dropped the ball. *Insert facepalm*

Which, to me was the most difficult part of it all. I easily could have provided the information, but it just never came. And that’s tacky.

I’m sure they also read between the lines. If a team can’t provide the information they need, would you want to work with them? We’re in the dating phase, and they’ve already ghosted you. It’s bad form. Especially when I reminded them daily of what needed to be done, up until the deadline.

Unfortunately the team was “too busy.” I guess the suppliers were too busy to respond too! Either way it only added to the fun of the hot mess it had become.

The Ending


Now there are more than just the three issues, but who has time to read through them all? (or would want to, in detail?!). This is supposed to be partially entertaining, so I’ll keep the blog short. And add a funny video to the right (check it out, it’s about the ridiculousness of the RFP process).

From having to write the RFP myself to blind-siding the incumbent, this RFP felt like a significant debacle from the get-go. It appeared most suppliers saw right through what the team was requested, and they weren’t having it. So the further along we went, the worse it got. But I’ll let you decide what to call it.

At the end of the day, you can’t expect to hold your suppliers to better standards than you hold yourself.  If you push people to impossible tasks, they either quit or find that the ROI (Return on Investment) will outweigh your ridiculousness – so you need deep pockets.

Therefore, if you are thinking of committing these mistakes, don’t do it. Please. Otherwise, you’ve left yourself with a bad reputation and a lot of work to do.

An RFP Supplier Perspective


Check out CMM if you aren’t familiar with the term Supplier Perspective Analysis. (It’s pretty intuitive for the most part). Our account would be in the quadrant ‘Nuisances.’ Now, who in the heck would willingly take on this relationship? The answer: pretty much nobody! This is why a self-assessment is so key, and why the tools of the category management process can help stop you from committing these atrocities!


If you don’t know your place in the market, you don’t know what suppliers will put up with. Like in our case, absolutely nothing!
More Links for those who Hate RFPs:

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Was this RFP a Complete Circus, Screw-up or a Trainwreck? You Decide! 2

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