One of the most commented upon blogs we have posted this year is the one we published on the frustration many suppliers feel when they are in receipt of client RFPs. Comments came from suppliers in agreement of the sentiment and many buyers about the bias in the writing. You can read this blog here.
Bit of a Marmite blog to be fair.
That said, it certainly created debate. Frankly that is what the blog is about.
Below is the second part of this blog. Batten down the hatches.
One of the irritants for suppliers in most RFPs is how the process inherently gives the client control of the process; the choice of online portal, the preconditions suppliers must agree to in order to take part, the timelines, and so on.
Here is some text a supplier might consider using to redress the balance, to be sent to the client at the point in the process they ask the supplier if they intend to participate in the RFP. Suppliers might want to modify some of the language!
(CLIENT NAME)/ (SUPPLIER NAME) RFP RESPONSE AGREEMENT
Client has issued an RFP to a number of Suppliers. Before giving access to the Brief, Client requires Suppliers to advise if they will be responding. This Supplier advises that they will respond if Client agrees to the following terms:
Client agrees to focus the Brief on the following issues:
Supplier will ignore any suggestions in the brief about duration or methodology, on the basis that Client has asked for Supplier’s expertise on this subject, which is the point of the exercise.
Client agrees to identify any RFP where they have already decided which Supplier they intend to use. Suppliers may then decide whether to respond on one or more of the following grounds:
Client agrees to define the deadlines for each stage of the RFP. Supplier agrees to meet reasonable deadlines set by client for submission of work, and understands that failure to meet these deadlines will result of exclusion of the Supplier from the RFP process. Failure by Client to meet their own deadlines for Client activity (holding face to face meetings, notification to the successful party, implementation, etc.) without notification will result in a penalty payment to the Supplier (see Penalties) for failing to meet acceptable standards of behaviour.
If Client wishes a Supplier interface as part of the process, for example a Q&A session or a pitch, they will consult the Supplier on a range of alternative dates. If Client offers only a single date, which the Supplier cannot make, the Client will pay a Penalty for inflexibility.
If Suppliers are offered the opportunity to ask questions to clarify the brief and the process, Client agrees not to copy the answers to the other Suppliers. They can think of their own questions.
Client acknowledges that proposals made by Suppliers will involve creative thought. Client will have no rights to this creativity, and cannot pinch a good idea from here and a clever thought from there to put together into a solution, probably with the intention of internal delivery by people who have no creativity at all.
Client agrees to state the size of the project accurately, and not fabricate big numbers in the hope of getting a low quote.
Client will advise any situation where they have no hope of controlling the size of the project centrally, for example because local buyers will continue to be the decision makers.
Client warrants that the project to which this RFP refers has already been granted a budget, and senior management approval. It is not some lame-brained pot-shot designed for internal purposes to demonstrate to management how busy the procurement team are.
Client agrees to use a web RFP engine which is user friendly. There will be independent verification of this using a test whereby the Client procurement department send an RFP to their own sales team. If the sales team get confused in responding to the RFP, the existing engine will be dumped and replaced by a better one paid for out of the salaries of the procurement and IT personnel.
If Excel spread sheets are used for Supplier response, Client warrants that they have checked the formatting of the spreadsheet so that answers can be inserted correctly. Client agrees to make financial restitution to Suppliers for their time wasted trying to use drop-down boxes with no content, currency boxes formatted for a date, etc.
Client acknowledges that all prices quoted by Supplier will be at the top end of high. Supplier acknowledges that whatever price they quote, Client will attempt further negotiation to get it lowered.
TERMS AND CONDITIONS
Client accepts that any Supplier agreeing to Client Ts and Cs as part of the pre-qualification process without a discussion isn’t intelligent enough to be worth dealing with. In particular, all Ts and Cs which relate to commercial conditions, such as Payment and Cancellation Terms are voided until agreed separately after the contract is awarded.
Client agrees to Supplier deleting all references to issues which are redundant to the specific contract from the ‘Standard’ Client Ts and Cs.
Client acknowledges that Supplier will refuse to answer impertinent questions such as ‘What is Your Profit Margin?’ and ‘Which of Your Competitors Should We Also Send This RFP To?’
PENALTIES PAYABLE BY CLIENTS
Incorrectly formatted spread sheets - £100 per mistake.
All other Client mistakes - £1000, which is the typical Supplier cost of preparing a proposal.
Stephen White, Managing Partner
About the author:
My background is sales and marketing. I read Law at University and worked for 2 major packaging companies for 13 years in sales and sales management. I joined John McMillan and Scotwork in 1984. For the next 25 years together with our colleagues we delivered training and consulting, built the global business and developed the Scotwork product portfolio.