Better RFP Responses & Management
Advice to Procurement Professionals: Use the Power of One

Advice to Procurement Professionals: Use the Power of One

Bidders are highly motivated to do well: to submit, on time, a compliant proposal that will score well and offer the lowest price they can. So why don’t they do better? A major reason is the complexity of bid documents.  Simpler documents will lead to fewer questions during the process, and to better responses at the end of the process, where “better” means closer to the requirement, easier to evaluate, and more competitively priced. Herewith, some practical suggestions for keeping it simple.

Say It Once

Say it once, not in several places: With the best of intentions, repetition leads to small variations. Bidders seize on those variations and worry them to death:

  • Faced with different descriptions of the procurement purpose (or objectives, goals, vision, or mission), they read meaning into those differences and spend time trying to reconcile them.
  • Faced with inconsistencies in the response requirement (content, organization, layout, and format), they spend time crafting detailed questions to get clarity.

Help bidders avoid this unproductive work by saying things once.

Ask Just Once

With many people contributing to bid documents, it’s easy to ask for the same information more than once. As one example, an RFP might ask for information on continuous improvement in a section on quality as well as in the project management section. Repetitive questions baffle bidders, who then waste time trying to discern meaningful distinctions where there may be none.

Use One Word for One Concept

Proposal editors strive to eliminate meaningless variation in terminology: standardizing on “trainee,” for example, rather than using “trainees,” “students,” “course participants,” and “program attendees” to refer to the same people. Similarly, procurement documents should use one word for one concept. For example, pick just one from these sets of similar terms:

  • Mobilization, Transition, Takeover, Start-up
  • Delivery Date, Contract Start, Service Commencement, Effective Date



This post is based on an article I wrote for the National Institute of Government Purchasing, Canada West Chapter.