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Top 10 Elements of a good RFP

Posted by Brian Davis, CPSM


Selecting the right 3PL provider is one of the most important things you can do for your business. You can help yourself greatly by taking a few critical elements into consideration when constructing your RFP. Some of the most critical elements are listed in the “Top 10 Elements of a Good RFP Process” below.

For those of you on the sales side of the business, there are some important “Do’s and Don’ts” when responding to an RFP that can have a tremendous impact on the consideration of the proposals you submit.

Top 10 Elements of a Good RFP Process:

  • Includes and actively involves all stakeholders, with stakeholders determined by dollar share of spend, risk, etc.
  • The procurement professional leads the process, but decisions are team-based with a team of selected subject matter experts
  • Decisions are based on empirical data that can be measured
  • Demystifies any “black boxes” of a product or service by breaking them down into components that can be evaluated
  • Gives appropriate consideration to historical performance and relationships with existing suppliers
  • Clarifies expectations, metrics, and the definition of success in terms of expect outcomes, timing, quality, cost, etc.
  • Evaluates prospective performance with other similarly suited customers when possible
  • Audits information from proposals via hands-on observations by sourcing team subject matter experts (If you say you do X with Y results, then the RFP process should verify that you indeed do X with Y results)
  • Considers the Total Cost of Ownership or service over the expected duration of the service, useable lifetime of equipment, etc.
  • Addresses material requirements for participation (Geography, Insurance, indispensable commercial terms, etc.) in advance RFI discovery stages, not during the commercialization phase of a contract.

A good RFP will tell you how to sell to the customer by paying attention to the instructions in the RFP. Too many RFP respondents try to re-structure a customer’s format to fit their design. RFPs are structured in a format to fit the customer’s reviewing needs, and those reviewing multiple RFPs don’t want to decipher multiple different formats.

Some Do’s and Don’ts when responding to an RFP:


  • Respond Completely – answer all the questions concisely unless requested
  • Reply in the format requested, keep questions in the order received, spreadsheets unadulterated, etc.
  • Make sure your responses can be supported with facts and will pass audit/ empirical scrutiny


  • Answer questions with pasted links to web pages or references to attachments
  • Paste in verbose, generic boiler-plate material
  • Give intangible answers to measurable questions (“We hire people who make all the difference!” is not a good answer to the question: “To what degree does market condition X affect your company’s ability to perform function Y and what is your strategy to mitigate negative effects?)

Please feel free to comment below with any additions I missed or if you had a particular great example of a good RFP tip.

The Ultimate RFP Template & Tool Kit Download

Brian Davis, CPSM

Written by Brian Davis, CPSM

Brian is an accomplished sourcing professional with a history of proven results working with Fortune 500 companies. He is currently immersed in founding a strategic sourcing program with Kenco


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