There seems to be an unwritten law that requests for proposal (RFPs) need to be complicated, stressful and a time waster. Here are some logical steps that can streamline your RFP process and relieve unnecessary pain for you and the bidders. 1. Clarify what you’re sourcing. First, figure out what you’re sourcing and how effectively it can be evaluated. Develop a specific scope or statement of work (SOW) with services, clearly stipulate what will be done and by whom; the frequency; and what certifications or qualifications may be required by those performing them. 2. Set realistic action dates. Establish action dates that are realistic for all parties. Allow a reasonable amount of time for the respondents to consider and evaluate your needs and to construct a detailed response. Insufficient response time leads to incomplete responses and some participants dropping out. 3. Develop explicit terms of engagement. Ensure that the terms under which you’ll evaluate all bids and award the business (or dissolve the process) are absolutely clear so no one has an unanticipated negative experience—which may discourage participation in your future RFPs. 4. Allow flexible responses and creative solutions. Stay away from rigid and condescending language like, “failure to submit exactly what is requested will automatically disqualify the bidder.” The world (including your company’s business) isn’t always that black and white.. Often, the bidders’ capabilities and experience enable them to offer creative and effective solutions that you hadn’t considered. 6. Listen to your internal clients. If the quality of the bidders’ proposals is highly subjective, give your internal client’s wishes a lot of weight. Remember, that person will have to work with the successful bidder and thus must be on board. If you disagree with your internal client’s choices, give sound objections rather than just gut feelings. 7. Leave room for negotiation. Give yourself the opportunity to negotiate with RFP finalists. Many bidders assume— despite what the RFP issuer may say—to never offer their best bid when submitting an initial response. RFP efficiency pays off. Follow these key steps and you’ll get through the RFP process more efficiently and with a lot less difficulty. They will also enable you to attract more and better-qualified bidders. You’ll do business with higherquality firms and help ensure that you get the best value. How to relie ve RFP Pain —Adapted from Supply & Demand Chain Executive Sandy Sbarra, Vice President and Lead Tutor for Scotwork North America Inc. He has been a procurement specialist for firms including M&M/Mars and Western Union. 973.428.1991.