RFPs—can’t live with ‘em can’t live without ‘em. You need to send requests for proposals (RFPs) to keep your property in top condition and appealing to tenants. But you know the drill: it can take hours writing each vendor RFP, chasing down responses, and making follow-up calls, only to end up with lackluster responses. Or no responses at all.

Given the typical outcome, it’s no surprise many property teams skip the vendor RFP process in favor of familiar options, even if overpriced.

Why are so many RFPs so unsuccessful?

It’s often not the vendor’s fault; it’s your property team’s. Failing to include the right information and present it in a clear, digestible way vastly decreases your chances of receiving quality responses.

Here are five reasons why your RFPs might be missing the mark:

1. You Don’t Know Your Audience

Going for quantity over quality when sending RFPs is a mistake. While it can be tempting to cast a wide net when searching for vendors, this often leads to wasted time sorting through responses from entities that fall well short of your criteria.
Start any RFP process by defining your ideal respondent as clearly as possible. For example, “HVAC maintenance technicians” is too broad a category to target effectively. “Commercial HVAC Management companies with X years of experience” is a more useful target.

After determining your intended audience, craft your vendor RFP with this persona in mind.

Person crafting a vendor RFP on a laptop.

2. You Use the Same RFP Template for Every Project

Many property teams use a standard template when creating RFPs. (If you don’t have one already, there are plenty of free options online.) Templates are a useful way to save time and avoid rewriting the same questions over and over.

However, each template should be reviewed and modified carefully before crafting a vendor RFP to confirm it makes sense for the intended project and audience.

Obviously, a landscaper will need completely different qualifications than a boiler technician. And an RFP for a capital project—like renovating a cafeteria—will need to be assessed more rigorously than a vendor for a quick one-time fix, like repainting a lobby wall.

Asking the same set of questions on each vendor RFP invites irrelevant answers and lower response rates. Secure more relevant candidates by assessing RFP templates before each project and updating them as your business needs change.

3. You Don’t Request References

The CRE industry runs on existing relationships. But even if your brother’s ex-girlfriend’s college roommate swears a certain vendor is trustworthy, it’s still best practice to ask every potential vendor for references. Include a reference request in your RFP, along with your intent to contact these individuals promptly. This is a great way to obtain honest, unfiltered feedback about a vendor’s strengths and weaknesses.

If speaking with a vendor’s prior customers isn’t an option, request a case study from a past project. In either case, specify that these references should be from jobs like your particular use case to ensure the information is meaningful.

Two colleagues collaborating on a vendor RFP.

4. Your RFPs Don’t Include Clear Project Timelines

To receive high-quality responses, your project timeline must be clear to vendors. This means setting dates by which:

  • They need to submit initial bids
  • You’ll award the contract
  • You’d like to begin work
  • You expect the project to be completed

Setting these timelines up front forces vendors to respond promptly and prevents your vendor RFP from getting shuffled to the bottom of their to-do list.

Ensure your bid submission deadline leaves enough time for vendors to craft a thoughtful response. The more detailed your bid requirements are, the more time you should allow.

Noting detailed project timelines helps vendors assess their workloads and determine if they can reasonably pursue the contract. This also helps avoid expensive project delays from vendors with packed schedules. Include room for ambitious vendors to suggest earlier completion dates for the project when applicable.

5. You Don’t Share Evaluation Criteria

Rather than debating your options over a conference room table, your team should create a standard method of evaluating RFPs. Some teams use weighted scoring, comparative matrixes, or their own unique methods.

Include this information in your RFP template for vendors. Along with the scoring method used, include key criteria ranging from basic availability requirements to specific technical qualifications. Be sure to distinguish required licensing and qualifications from those that are merely preferred.

Knowing how they’ll be evaluated gives vendors the opportunity to show how they’re a good match for your needs. Or to realize they don’t meet project requirements and not waste your time with a bid.

Make RFPs Easy as 123

In a climate of COVID-induced financial pressure, teams looking to trim unnecessary costs should closely review all vendor contracts. The competitive bid process allows property teams to secure more beneficial vendor relationships. But many property teams avoid sending RFPs due to underwhelming responses.

Learn more about how to elevate your vendor bidding process—read Building Engines’ eBook: 3 Ways to Transform Your Vendor Management.