Writing a request for proposal (RFP) to find a new contractor is a good way to get competitive bids from qualified candidates—if you do it right. How you write your company’s RFP can influence the quality of proposals you receive. Here are five things you might be doing to contaminate your pool of responses.

1. You Aren’t Targeting Recipients

If you haven’t taken any steps to limit who receives your RFP, you might actually be missing out on top proposals. Sometimes firms don’t bother to respond if the invitation to bid has been extended to dozens and dozens of companies. RFP responses take days or weeks to put together, so contractors must feel it’s worth their time to compose a thorough response.

2. Your Schedule Is Unrealistic

If your RFP recipients don’t have enough time to prepare a quote that is thoroughly researched and written, they likely won’t bother to submit one at all. If they do turn one in, it’ll probably be shoddily put together and lacking important information. Allow enough time for complete and professional responses and include your timeline for making a decision. Dates you should include are: deadline for submissions, notification of finalists, presentation dates, final decision, contract finalization, and final notification for all bidders.

3. You’re Not Answering Questions

Without an opportunity to clarify what you’re asking for, bidders may be left to guess what you really want. And there’s a real good chance they’ll guess wrong. List a point of contact for questions about the RFP and the bidding process and do your best to respond to those questions in a timely manner. Your reward for doing so will be higher caliber proposals to choose from.

4. You Haven’t Articulated How You’ll Evaluate Quotes

If you don’t outline your evaluation criteria, responses will be hit-or-miss. Tell respondents what you’re looking for and which criteria are the most important to you. You’ll get customized responses that make the evaluation process a lot easier. Let’s say you’re more concerned with deadlines than price, you can provide a list of scored variables and assign a numeric value to each one.

For example:

  • Expertise – 55%
  • Timeline – 25%
  • References – 5%
  • Overall Price – 15%

5. Your RFP Is Too Long

Interested contractors will be eager to write an RFP response that includes all the information you requested, but a long, convoluted RFP will make that virtually impossible. Edit proposals for brevity and clarity. If you need help paring it down, try starting over with a template and filling in only the most crucial information. Provide a checklist so that bidders can easily see whether or not they’ve covered each of the required items in your request for proposals.

You can also improve the quality of future responses by following up with bidders and giving an honest critique of their proposals. With that knowledge, they’ll be able to compensate for any weaknesses the next time you solicit bids for a project.