#1 - Introduce your organisation
The best way to start a Request For Proposal document is with an introduction. This provides background information on your organisation for suppliers. This is helpful to suppliers who will use this information when writing their bid. A few paragraphs are all you need. Cover the basics about your organisation e.g. who you are, your industry, your market and who your customers are. Also include a brief description of what you are looking to procure (your specification will provide the finer details of your requirements).
#2 - How to ask a question during the tender process
It is important to provide suppliers with clear instructions on how the tender process will be run. If a supplier does not understand the instructions contained in the request for proposal, they may need to ask a question. You therefore need to provide clear instruction in your request for proposal of how to ask a question during the tender process.
#3 - How the tender process works
You need to communicate the timescales of your tender process. For example: the deadline for asking questions and the deadline for submitting a bid. This information can be presented in a table format that clearly lists the key tender dates. If there is a presentation stage, site visit, live demonstration or audit, include the expected dates here. If you are concerned about missing the published dates you can caveat the table by stating that the dates are for information purposes only and are subject to change. If you request samples you should include where they should be delivered to and for whose attention.
#4 - Include the selection questionnaire (SQ)
You must include the minimum requirements to participate in the tender process. This includes asking for information such as company accounts, insurance certificates, warranties and references. You may have already carried out this stage in a Request for Information (RFI).
#5 - Write the specification - scope of work
A specification should clearly articulates what you want to buy in terms of quantity, quality, timescales and deliverables. There are many different types of specifications you can include in a Request for Proposal these include: functional specifications, technical specifications, input based specifications, output based specifications and performance specifications. The choice of specification will be key to what you want to buy. If I want to buy a catering service, I could write an output based specification for example: I want there to always be a range of tasty, hot, nutritional meals for the children at my school and I want zero waste. This way you invite suppliers to think outside of the box and suggest how they would meet your specification. This approach helps to increase competition and innovation.
#6 - How will my bid be evaluated?
Suppliers need to know how their bid will be evaluated. It may surprise you to hear that I see tender documents all the time that are 'woolly' when it comes to describing how bids will be evaluated. The Procurement Law is black and white in this area, the buyer must clearly communicate to suppliers how their bid will be scored and how the winning bidder will be chosen. You cannot make it up as you go along. If you do not include your methodology for evaluating bids in your Request for Proposal you may be at risk of a legal challenge.
Naomi Clews® is a qualified procurement expert who has written hundreds of tenders for government. Naomi provides procurement consulting support to design and run tender processes on behalf of buying organisations. Find out more here.
#7- Consider creating your Request for Proposal in an e-tendering portal
Creating a standard response template saves you time at the point of evaluation and more importantly ensures bidders respond in the same format. Bidders often include silly graphics and marketing literature that you didn't ask for. You can stop this by using an e-tendering portal and restricting the number of attachments the buyer can upload. e-tendering portals also limit the length of the suppliers response to your question. This stops suppliers rambling on when all you want is a concise response. You can create an online questionnaire for suppliers to directly input their responses into. This is great for the Selection Questionnaire. Once the tender closes, you can download all the responses and away you go - simple!
#8 - Create a standardised pricing template
Suppliers moan about pricing templates but this is your Request for Proposal and you set the rules. Creating a standard pricing template is key to making the price evaluation super quick and simple for you. Pricing templates make suppliers submit their prices in the same format, which is super important. If you allow suppliers to price their bids in different ways it is harder for you to understand which supplier provides best value.
#9 - Create a self scoring price evaluation matrix
If you really want to drive value create a self scoring price evaluation matrix. The use of 'target pricing' helps suppliers as they know where to pitch their pricing. How does target pricing work? The buyer sets the price they want to pay and assigns a score to the price e.g. 90. If the supplier submits the 'target price' they achieve a score of 90 out of a maximum score of 100. If the supplier submits a price that is lower than the 'target price' they can achieve the maximum 100 points. If the supplier submits a price that is higher than the 'target price' they receive a lower score and have the potential to score zero and be disqualified from the process. The buyer decides on the parameters of pricing above and below the 'target price'. The evaluation matrix tells the supplier their score prior to submitting the bid. The supplier has the opportunity to sharpen their pencil (so to speak) to achieve a higher score. You do not need any fancy software to create this, I use an Excel spreadsheet. You do however require a high degree of knowledge of the goods or services you are buying and the supply base for this approach to work effectively. I have used this method many times, it has never failed me.
#10 - Include your terms & conditions
Always include your T&C's, Service Level Agreements (SLA) or Key Performance Indicators (KPI). It is extremely useful to suppliers if you include a bid submission checklist. The supplier will know what information they need to submit and will cut down on the number of questions you get asked about the tender process. Finally you need to include a declaration for the authorised officer to sign, stating that to the best of their knowledge the information contained in their bid is correct.
There you have it, a 10 step plan on how to write a request for proposal document.
Naomi Clews® is a qualified procurement tendering expert who has written hundreds of tender for government for over 15 years. Naomi provides procurement consulting and effective training courses to help buyers get the best from their tender processes. If you would like to find out more about procurement services please visit the Naomi Clews Consultancy website.