7 Spooky RFP Qualities that will Scare Away Suppliers

In this blog, we’re shining our trusty flashlights on those ghoulish RFP qualities sure to send our precious suppliers running for the hills.

7 Spooky RFP Qualities that will Scare Away Suppliers
Steve Isaac
27 October 2021

Halloween is a celebration of all things spooky and scary. It’s the one day a year where we engage with the macabre — where we turn out the lights and turn on the frights. And if we do our jobs, we are rewarded by screams of both horror and delight. For the other 364 days, as procurement professionals, we should be doing everything we can to avoid RFP qualities that scare away our suppliers.

There are a lot of frightening pitfalls we face when building our solicitations and RFPs. In this blog, we’re shining our trusty flashlights on those ghoulish qualities sure to send our precious suppliers running for the hills.

Requiring Documents Signed in Front of a Notary

While we can’t speak to the frightfulness of the average notary, we can speak to the frightfulness of added costs. The average cost for a notary is $15/signed document, with costs occasionally reaching into the $40/document range. That may not sound like much, but these fees add up.

When responding to an RFP, suppliers are (consciously or unconsciously) running a cost benefit analysis. Adding additional burdens to that cost column in the form of fees and travel and logistics to find a notary is sure to make some suppliers skip your project in favor of less spooky opportunities.

Requiring Multiple Bound Color Copies of Proposals

Asking for printed, hand delivered copies is scary enough in a world where more and more agencies are allowing for digital submission. But you want to really spook your suppliers? Force them to color-print and bind proposals. Even if they go through it once, suppliers will remember the costs you’re imposing and the inconvenience you are putting them through when making future participation decisions. There are other ways!


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Asking for Minimum Years of Experience as a Company

We want capable and experienced contractors to make sure our projects go smoothly. But asking for minimum years as a company is simply not the way. This is sure to scare off small and diverse businesses whose experts and leaders may have just struck out on their own after years in the field. You could be cutting yourself off from smaller, more local businesses with lower costs and just as much capability. Scary stuff.

Bid Specifications That Seem to Favor One Brand

Appearing to favor a specific brand or product is a great way to reduce the competitiveness of your process. Introducing requirements and specifications that clearly point to a preferred vendor will have suppliers saying ‘no thanks’ and walking away. Your departmental users may end up doing this inadvertently, so you may need to put on your Sherlock Holmes costume to sniff out this issue.

Requiring a bid bond – even for a small project

Bid bonds are a valuable device for agencies to ensure that their awarded supplier has the means to accept a job. But there is a time and a place. For smaller projects, maybe replace the bid bond requirement with more detailed financials and references. This can help you to contract trusted suppliers without scaring off small and diverse businesses.

Short Turnaround Times

As busy as you are, and as important as your project is, your suppliers are likely just as busy. A short turnaround time can mean asking those suppliers to drop everything for your project. And while some may be willing to do just that, you are going to be closing the door on suppliers who would otherwise love to work with you.

Of course there are times when a procurement project has to get done fast, but if you can give your suppliers a little more notice you may see a lot more responses.

Vague Evaluation Criteria

The purpose of public procurement is to create a structured and equitable process by which goods and services can be purchased. There should be no room in that process for vagueness. Sure, your questions can be open-ended to explore how a vendor might solve a problem or address an issue. But whether evaluating qualitative or quantitative factors, your suppliers should know exactly how they will be graded. 

If for example, your public RFP lists 7 items that will be considered in awarding, but they are listed in no particular order and there are no weights given to the distinct items, you make it harder for suppliers to put their best foot forward. They may be just as likely to not step into the process at all.

Don’t Scare Off Your Suppliers

Unless they are at your door yelling Trick or Treat, you definitely don’t want to scare away suppliers. The more participants you have, they lower your costs and the better your results! Avoid the above pitfalls and if you can, think about leveraging new techniques and technologies that boost transparency, lower supplier costs, and save you time and money. Happy Halloween!