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How to Create an Effective RFP

When the time comes to get a new vendor for a project or a contract of services, it’s time to get some bids or proposals. But if you get several proposals it can be hard to compare the different service providers as they each may discuss different items related to their strengths in what they offer. The easiest way to line them up and ensure you get answers to the same questions is to create an RFP, or a Request For Proposal (some call it an RFI – Request For Information, in many circles they are synonymous though in some they differ).

Easier said than done. Many don’t know what is needed in an RFP, or how to differentiate between different service needs, or which specific industry items are necessary. It can be a time of serious confusion and frustration which will certainly lead to low productivity and less confidence, a delay in getting bids and getting the work done, and worst of all, potentially selecting the wrong service provider for the project.

But there are certain ways to perform bid requests that work better than others. Of course if you want to automate the RFP process by using an easy cloud based application, like Synlio, that makes everything simple.

But even beyond that you want to make sure everything is laid out clearly and very organized so that you get the best possible outcome for your project. Here’s how to do it:

Prep Before Creating Your RFP

  1. Know Before You Go – Do your homework and learn about the industry that will be servicing the project. What are the specific items that vendors will want to include in their bids? What is important to customers of these service providers? Having this baseline knowledge will make your RFP that much stronger.
  2. Decide What is Needed vs What is Wanted – When entering a project, everything might sound really important. However, when cost comes into play, it will be important to distinguish between things you can’t live without, and things that would be nice to have. That will make choosing the winning proposal that much easier.
  3. Determine How Many Quotes You’ll Need to Get Back – Sometimes you are required by a board, an owner, or by statute to get three bids, or five, or maybe you only need one. Know what your number of proposals to compare will be before starting your RFP project.
  4. Figure Out What the Winning Bidder Will Look Like – Now that you know what is needed, you should form a sense of what that final bidder will look like and offer. Once you have that image in your head, selecting the winning provider will be a cakewalk.

Create a Great RFP

  1. General Background Information – In order for vendors to provide an accurate bid, they will need to know about the project. This can be relayed to them near the beginning of your RFP in a Project Overview. Provide some details into the history of the project, what you’re looking for in terms of service level, and even a little about your property management company and the standards you have.
  2. Frequency and Term – How often will the service need to be provided? Is this a one-time thing? Or will it be ongoing? Does it have an end term (maybe a year, or two years) or will it continue until the parties decide to split? Setting the contract term will allow the vendors to know what they are bidding on.
  3. Attach Needed Files – Pictures, construction plans, maps of the property, designs, and anything else that might be good information to a service provider when they review your RFP will be important to include.
  4. Create a Good Structure – RFPs that are easy to follow and understand will have many more bids returned than those that are a chaotic mess. Have sections, with clear requirements and questions neatly listed so that vendors can submit proposals quickly. Be sure to have specific requirements and questions that will help you discern the differences between the companies and proposals. Make your needs a strict requirement, whereas your wants should be questions to see if anyone can deliver.
  5. Set Schedule for Bid Process – Make sure you share when proposals will be due, when the presentation date will be (if any), when the walk-through will be if you want one, and when the contract will be awarded. This way vendors will allocate their time correctly when they submit their proposals.
  6. Review Your Bid Request – Many people forget to go back and review their RFP before they send it. Look at what you’ve put together for your proposal request – does it make sense? Is it clear to someone who knows nothing about the property or the project? Will it get you to that winning bidder you had envisioned? Make sure your RFP will work.
  7. Make This an RFP Template - Since you just went through all this work, why not make the next time that much easier. Turn what you did into a template and re-use what you've created again and again with other properties that need the same service.

So that’s it. No reason to stress, or freak out, or procrastinate. Either use an easy RFP automation software like Synlio that makes RFPs easy and efficient or follow the steps to creating a great RFP and you’ll be on your way to a new vendor in no time.

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