RFP Dos and Don’ts: Improve Supplier Relationship Management

Written by
Graham McConnell
Graham McConnell
Updated on
  3 min read

Want to know a secret? Sometimes, we don’t respond to requests for proposals (RFPs), and several of our customers have admitted they won’t either.

Why? Because sometimes, the requests are terrible.

In fact, poor RFPs are so prevalent APMP — “a membership association for professionals dedicated to the process of winning business through professional proposals, bids, tenders, and presentations” — created a poor procurement language and RFP hotline so they can contest biased or vague language in government agencies’ RFPs.

While you likely won’t have anyone submitting complaints if your company’s RFPs are subpar, you might convince helpful vendors you’re not worth their time.

(Learn how RFP360 can help you improve the RFP process for your team and your vendors.)

So, what exactly makes a vendor decide not to respond to an RFP?

3 common mistakes that send vendors running.

Top providers are in high demand. If your RFx process (RFI, RFP, RFQ, etc.) is too complicated, chances are they’ll move on to the next opportunity.

Simplify the process by explaining how vendors can seek clarification, how they should respond, and what your timeframe looks like.

The average proposal win rate is 47 percent. That’s slightly worse than a coin flip.

Do you think vendors will be motivated to answer 500 questions when they’re not even sure they’ll win the business?

Make sure your RFPs only include the questions that actually matter to your business.

However you’re asking suppliers to submit responses, avoid being too strict.

Don’t require a clunky portal or printing and shipping thousands of pages. Don’t mandate using Microsoft Word when Excel would work better.

In other words, consider how your requirements will affect your stakeholders. Are you asking for too much too fast? Are you using a system that will inherently make their job harder?

Give your vendors the freedom to respond in the format that best conveys their value, and when possible, provide tools that make it easy to respond to your request.

Dos and don’ts of issuing an engaging RFP

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry.

A couple of minor tweaks can make your RFPs much more vendor-friendly. Below are some basic guidelines for issuing RFPs that will delight your stakeholders.


  • Interrogate your vendors with endless RFPs.
  • Require physical paper submissions. (Offer a digital option.)
  • Paint vendors into a corner with overly specific questions.
  • Be so attached to your “system” that you won’t try new technology or tools.
  • Use generic, boilerplate questions (without tweaking to fit your situation).
  • Default to issuing an RFP as the first step. (Consider your options).


  • Make your RFP as short and sweet as possible (even if it requires multiple rounds).
  • Give an electronic-submission option.
  • Ask open-ended questions rather than highly specific questions.
  • Use technology when it helps streamline the process (like e-procurement tools and/or vendor management systems).
  • Use past questions as a starting point; then tailor to make them relevant.
  • Issue the RFP once you’ve done your homework.
  • Prioritize and invest in your vendor relationships.

Essentially, all the RFP examples and best practices come down to treating your vendors with respect. If you make it easy for vendors and suppliers to engage, they will.

Supplier relationship management is, after all, the management of relationships. And if we don’t empower our vendors to deliver, we risk losing them.

Learn how RFP360 can help you improve your relationships with vendors.

Graham McConnell

Graham lives in the B2B marketing space. He dabbles in writing, usually about digital marketing, but has other interests like the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers, sci-fi films, video games and of course, response management.