By Mike Cody, Senior Vice President, Lovitt & Touché
Quite often employers and boards of directors decide to perform a “due diligence” process of vetting their current service providers – not just insurance brokers, but any contracted vendor – to ensure the vendors are competitive on price, services and value. Often this task is delegated to a CFO or Director of HR, who will put out a Request for Proposal (RFP) to current vendors.
When it comes to building out an RFP, organizations often search for previous RFPs, which can be useful to refer to for document structure and content. In addition to reviewing previous documents, these tips can make your next RFP more effective:
First the DON’Ts:
- Don’t copy an RFP from another source. Often the standard RFPs that circulate around have been seen before. Using one of these templates verbatim tells the recipient that you haven’t thought about what you want to get out of the process.
- Don’t ask questions about services you don’t need. If you’re not interested in something, don’t ask about it in the RFP. Focus on the specific items relevant to your organization and nothing more.
- Don’t ask about services that don’t apply to your size organization. Many times, organizations “borrow” RFPs from other organizations that are much larger, and certain services don’t apply. For example, if your organization is small (under 100 employees) and fully insured for health insurance, don’t ask about detailed claim reporting capabilities when the carrier won’t issue any information in this size segment. Do your research so you’re sure about which services apply to your specific organization.
- Don’t say that you want to know “what’s out there” or that you are doing your “due diligence.” These phrases are red flags for vendors, and may cause them to think that the RFP could be a waste of time, or that the client isn’t serious about making a change/
- Don’t surprise vendors by releasing an unexpected RFP. A phone call or advance alert goes a long way to pique a vendor’s interest and allows them time to coordinate resources before they receive the RFP.
- Don’t give a short timeframe for responses. RFPs require a massive amount of work and often require coordination of a lot of resources. Give at least three to four weeks for completion.
Next, your RFP DO’s:
- Do customize the RFP for your goals and objectives, and state them clearly. There is nothing worse for a vendor than having to guess what the client wants. Doing so will help the vendor know exactly what they need to provide in their response to show how they meet your needs.
- Do be specific with terminology and what you expect. Many clients ask for actuarial services, but they don’t really know what that means, how they will use the data or why it is important for their type of plan.
- Do provide as much information about your current plans as possible. Including background in your RFP will help the vendor better understand your current situation and make recommendations to improve or expand your insurance plan.
- Do provide an opportunity for vendors to ask questions or receive additional information. Vendors should have a way to ask questions to better inform their final response. Allowing questions during the RFP process helps vendors become more familiar with your company and your specific needs, and can increase the quality of the responses you must choose from in the end.
- Do ask the vendor to make recommendations for how they can help you achieve your goals. Clients and vendors both want to talk constructively about potential solutions and goal achievement through specific actions.
Whether you’re planning to issue an RFP for insurance services or another vendor, a well-written RFP can go a long way in helping you identify the best vendor for your company.