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All in the Details, and Then Some. When RFPs Are Too Long for Their Own Good.

When government procurement agents create a request for proposal (RFP), they’ll want to get back high-quality responses from qualified vendors. This can lead them to make the RFP incredibly detailed. While being detailed is good and can help vendors know what is needed, RPFs that are too long can actually hinder getting a good selection of responses. If the RFP is too long, confusing, or micromanages what’s needed in a project, vendors may not know how to respond to the RFP questions or feel like they’re unqualified for the work. This could mean that government agencies could be reducing their vendor options or getting responses from vendors that aren’t exactly the right fit. Here are a few reasons why RFPs can be too long for their own good.  

Be detailed, but don’t micromanage
The bottom line is government purchasing agents know what they need. So, when they share all the detailed ins and outs of the project, they’re just helping the vendor, right? Sadly, this isn’t always the case. When agents dictate minute details of how a project must be completed, that could close the door to vendors with innovative ideas. Some vendors may know more efficient ways of getting projects done and may be able to suggest a better option. By detailing the exact way government agents want the project completed, they may deter some vendors with inventive ideas from responding.  

Dazed and confused
RFPs that are lengthy can be confusing. If a vendor has to read through the RFP several times and still isn’t clear on what is needed, the likelihood of them creating a good response is small. In order to avoid rambling RFPs that cause confusion, procurement agents should re-read and edit the RFP before posting. This will ensure that the project is clearly and succinctly described so that vendors know what is expected. 

Time prohibitive
Some vendors may not even bother with an RFP that’s too long or they may not know how to respond to the RFP questions. Many run their own businesses, and wading through a huge RFP can take a lot of time. They also know that they’ll have to then create a response, which involves collecting resources and information and addressing each item in the overly detailed RFP. Many vendors, simply can’t invest that much time in creating a response for an RFP they might not get. In order to attract more vendor responses, a shorter RFP is more attractive and can open the lines of communication with more vendor options.

 Short and sweet
Government procurement agents want to get the best responses to the RFPs they post. That means sometimes they might find themselves creating lengthy documents that try to best communicate their needs. The truth is that while detailed RFPs are helpful, clarity and brevity are equally as important.

Are you a government procurement agent that regularly creates RFPs? How do you ensure that your RFP length stays within a reasonable range?