Effective Supplier Evaluation: The Price is Right… How about the Supplier?

Spend Matters welcomes a guest article from Ben Werner and Auri Ghatak of The Hackett Group. This is the first of a two-part article.

Many companies today are trying to move procurement towards a more competitive and efficient bidding process. Some of these companies have policies that require buyers to solicit a specific number of bids when procuring certain items, and oftentimes, that selection process may be entirely centered on price.

Some buyers might simply ask three suppliers to send in a price for a certain item. Others may take the next step and send out a formal RFP (Request For Proposal) with several qualitative and quantitative criteria for the suppliers to fill out. A common issue is that despite sending out a formal RFP, the buyers still select the supplier based solely on price, while ignoring other critical qualitative factors. This occurs for three key reasons:

  1. The RFP is full of criteria that is irrelevant or of low importance, so price remains the determining factor.
  2. The client buyers/procurement staff do not know how or do not have the time to process and evaluate all of the qualitative and quantitative information they receive from the suppliers in the RFP. So, price is still the only true determining factor
  3. The RFP does not communicate the evaluation criteria accurately, so the suppliers are not incented to offer competitive proposals around service levels, lead times, etc.


It is important for RFPs to be comprehensive and well structured with the potential savings, award scenarios, and necessary analyses in mind instead of simply using an old template from another company or just compiling a laundry list of criteria from a few different sources. If price and possibly some subjective public perception are the only deciding factors, the buyers subject their company to a variety of risks (buying the incorrect type of product or service, poor quality, poor customer service, excessive costs of logistics, etc.) and likely forego supplier relationships that bring significant added value.

Essential Components for a Comprehensive RFP

Every RFP will be different depending on the category, geography, the buying company (size, industry), current market conditions, etc., but every comprehensive and well-structured RFP should contain most, if not all, of the following elements:

  • Company Background – Description of what the buying company does and the company’s accomplishments. It is important to convince the suppliers that the buying company is a stable, credible, and attractive company to do business with.
  • Scope of Procurement – Description of what products/services are in scope, which geographies are in scope, and the magnitude of the expected usage volumes.
  • Intent to Respond – Form asking suppliers to provide a response indicating their intent to participate (or not), due back within 48 hours of solicitation to gauge supplier interest ahead of responses. This provides the supplier with an easy first step to engage in the RFP process, and it quickly eliminates certain suppliers from consideration, thus avoiding wasting the buyers’ time.
  • Specifications – Description of products/services and required service levels, with enough detail to make it distinguishable from any other product/service to ensure accurate bids. If the specifications are not accurate enough, it will result in excessive questions from suppliers, delays, and incomplete or inaccurate bids.
  • Qualitative Information – This includes: questions related to non-price factors, such as service, warranty, delivery, quality, etc.; questions related to suppliers’ background and experience in other similar sectors, along with references; overview of the supplier-proposed implementation process; and other category specific relevant qualitative information. These types of questions can return a whole slew of information that may be difficult to process, so it is important that only relevant questions are included and a methodology to process the qualitative information has already been developed.

Check back on Saturday for Part Two of this article, which will cover the five other crucial components of a comprehensive RFP and advice for evaluating the RFP.

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Voices (2)

  1. Market Dojo:

    We have found that the major reason buyers don’t engage in creating weighted tenders is due to the second point around time and process. To set up a weighted tender takes effort to come up with the scoring methodologies. However what we have found is that when buyers start using simple tools to help set up these tenders, even though the scoring solution may not be perfect it puts buyers on the right track and they can use the results as a better guide to find the right solution. We have found that the majority of tenders are run on a buyers choice basis and with time many hone in the skills to improve the weighting element. One of the keys to success here is to use linear, logical scoring mechanisms. In the public sector however, from the other side of the coin and taking part in these tenders, we also find that many proposals are simply recycled without any consideration to the different supplier base. It would be great to see improvements in this area.

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