Page Limits: Tip #2 for RFP Issuers

If you’re going to use page limits, either to manage your proposal evaluation timeline or to force bidders to think about what really matters, here’s the second tip on how to do them better.

Align your page limits with the content required to answer the questions you ask, by doing a sanity check on the number of elements and the number of pages.

How do you do that? Consider these tactics: 

  • In the absence of any other rule of thumb, give bidders at least one page to answer every question, and every sub-question.  I’ve seen RFPs with a limit of 3 pages for 11 questions: Unless you want short snappers, allow more pages.  And if you do want short snappers, consider designing a simple form or table for bidders to complete, rather than inviting space-gobbling narrative answers.
  • To assess how much space is required to give a good answer, write your own sample ideal response to a few questions, and then scale that up to cover the whole proposal.
  • Once you have that ideal answer, consider using it to better specify the question.  Being coy or cagey about what you want helps nobody: With no clear direction, bidders err on the side of comprehensive (read “lengthy”) answers, and having to cut length leads to a lot of arbitrary decisions that don’t reflect competence in the work.
  • Maximize bidders’ flexibility by allocating pages by major sections or volumes – not sub-section by sub-section.  Let bidders figure out where to focus their content and take advantage of space-management techniques like not forcing page breaks for each new sub-section.
  • Recognizing that it’s a lot easier to ask a question than to answer it, increase your initial page-limit targets by 20%.  An arbitrary figure?  Sure – but no more arbitrary than most page limits.

Did you miss the first tip?  Here it is.

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