Tech Selection Series: Answering Bidder Questions

  • 5-Nov-2019

Welcome to the latest post in RSG's "Real Story Vendor Procurement" (RSVP) best practice series.

Last time I reviewed the mechanics of Issuing your RFP (Request for Proposal, or "tender"). In this segment, let's review how to answer bidder questions.

You need to give bidders a chance to clarify what you're trying to accomplish. There are a couple of good reasons for doing this:

  • it can become an important get-to-know-you phase for both parties. It provides an early glimpse of what it would be like to work together.
  • It closes the gap between how you thought your RFP was actually communicating and what vendors are actually hearing when they read it.

Bidder Questions

Keep Questions and Answers in Writing

Some vendors will want to manage questions orally. General, this is not a good idea -- it's not particularly efficient nor very fair. Every vendor should have access to the same questions and answers. In your RFP process, set a deadline to receive questions from vendors and solicit those questions and answers in writing.

Make sure you set aside a few days for your team to answer the questions and provide the best written answers possible. Anonymize their questions (i.e., remove any vendor-identifying language) and categorize them, for example, into "process," "requirements," or "pricing" segments.

Be respectful and courteous. Some questions might seem redundant, but remember vendors don't have the same context as you. Concede when you don't know something and be precise and clear as possible in all the information you provide.

Vagueness makes bidders anxious and making faulty assumptions can leave you confused about true differentiators. Focus on desired outcomes and let the bidders describe how they would get you there. Don't box them in with excessive details about how you want the system configured. Remain open to an alternate way of doing things.

Respect

You could sum this all up in a general life dictum, "show respect" and expect it in return. Showing respect is not the same as being friendly. The bidder's salesperson wants to get friendly, on the assumption you'll become more malleable. Friendly or not, you will want to push bidders to show their best.

Next Steps

RSG's research offers specific advice related to selecting technologies within different marketplaces. If you think you need more help, please contact us.

The next part of our selection series covers how to Evaluate Vendor Proposals. Stay tuned...

Other Posts in the RSVP Selection Series

Establish Business Foundations

Identify Needs and Opportunities:

Conduct Market Analysis:

Communicate with Suppliers:

Try Before You Buy:

  • Conducting Demos (coming later)
  • Filter to Final Lists (coming later)
  • Run of Competitive Proof of Concepts (coming later)

Make the Right Choice

  • Pilot Solution (coming later)
  • Negotiating Pricing and Contracts (coming later)

What's Next

  • Implementation (coming later)
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Leona Coffee, Director, Central Web Office National Academy of Sciences

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