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Many suppliers tell us that they don’t respond to RFPs. They see them as “rigged” or “wired.” They think that the outcome of the RFP is pre-determined. It is nothing more than a pro forma exercise in compliance.

Others tell us their frustration when they see an RFP that is inconsistent. This happens in technology all the time. Imagine there is a constraint. You can have option A. You can have option B. But you cannot have both option A and option B. Perhaps this is a technical issue. More likely there is a functional conflict. It’s like saying you want to have fat-free fat. Suppliers get frustrated by these unreasonable, uninformed demands.

Here’s another complaint we hear all the time. Buyers often focus on price, enabling predatory players to game the system. For example, let’s consider a sourcing event related to software consulting. Buyer BobCo needs to hire a team of JavaScript developers for a period of six months to work on a specific project. They issue an RFP. They solicit proposals from some of the usual suspects, companies they know can do the work. Perhaps these are vendors with whom they have worked in the past. But they also extend the request to some actors they do not know as well. Supplier Slick puts in a bid that is far below everyone else’s in price, say thirty-five percent less than the median of the other quotes. BobCo selects Slick because reasons, as the kids say. The incumbent players request feedback, only to be told that the winning bid had a significantly lower quote. Of course, Slick ends up under-performing and repricing the contract once it is in motion. When all is said is done, BobCo has paid twenty percent more than the median incumbent bid for a service that is of dubious quality. Slick moves on to the next, unsuspecting, unaware victim.

This is not to mention the difficulty with which suppliers must contend when onboarding. It is an administrative nightmare. Buyers ask irrelevant questions. Buyers fail to ask the questions they should ask. One cybersecurity vendor told me that they asked the buyer in the after-action interview why there had been no question regarding penetration testing or ISO 27001 certification. The buyer’s response? What are those? They’re only the most basic things you should require.

What do suppliers want? They want a fair competition with a level playing field. They want a clear, well-written RFP that makes sense. They want a buyer that will make a decision based on value, not just price. They want to have a customer who will be a long-term partner for mutual benefit.


These are reasonable demands. If buyers want to find the best product-solution fit and the best vendor-buyer fit, then it makes sense for them to empathize with the challenges of the other side to the same extent that buyers require salespeople to understand their circumstances.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

To really get to a place where buyers and suppliers both get what they want, each side needs a common, shared set of tools that simplifies the experience, data that informs the interaction, and community that deepens understanding.

Good suppliers don’t fear competition. They know that they can win on their own merits. They understand that succeeding in a well-run competitive auction is a key step in the initiation or progression of a long-term relationship from which both sides can benefit.


This is what we have built at EdgeworthBox. It is a set of tools, data, and community that simplifies the existing procurement process, sitting as a layer on top of your existing approach be that email and spreadsheets or an ERP module. It is elastic. You only pay for what you use. It is also built for joint procurement. Collaborate internally. Work together with other organizations. Leverage accessible, structured data about the products you are in the market to buy or sell Two heads are better than one. If you’d like to learn more, please email us and we’d be happy to tell you more.

Chand Sooran

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