Tech Selection Tips #9: How to Engage Vendors

There are multiple solicitation approaches that you can use to engage with technology suppliers in any selection process.  You'll find pros and cons to each, so the key is to pick the right one based on your particular circumstances.  Here’s a quick review of the main approaches.

RFP vs. RFI vs. RFQ vs. RFD

An RFP (request for proposal)—sometimes known as a tender—formally solicits potential suppliers to propose solutions for your needs.

You may want to consider issuing an RFI (request for information) prior to an RFP, if your earlier analysis suggests a lack of readiness to implement a solution, or if you believe you need more education on the technologies and marketplace. In rare cases, you may want to issue a simple RFQ (request for quote) to solicit pricing information or to confirm broad cost ranges if you are still seeking budget approval.

You’ll also need to invest the time and effort into this process commensurate with the criticality of the technology you’re selecting. So, in some cases, you’ll want to take some shortcuts. For example, you can employ an RFD (request for demo) in cases where your target list is small and you want to save the time by skipping directly to the demo phase.

Engage Vendor


  • For a very large digital initiative, consider an RFI to educate your team, and clarify opportunities and costs before issuing an RFP
  • RFQs typically only make sense when you are selecting more commoditized products and services (rarely the case in digital initiatives)
  • Set a realistic schedule that allows for iteration and adaptation in your process
  • Allocate time and resources in proportion to the criticality of this technology to your overall business success
  • An RFD can save you time, but may yield reduced business benefits and higher risks
  • Going straight to RFD places an even greater premium on getting the right short list
  • If you elect the RFD route, you should still require bidders to submit a written response, including a financial proposal
  • Remember that the biggest potential hold-up may prove to be financial and contractual wrangling; plan to start this early in the process
  • Consider reviewing RFP templates to jump-start your process, but never issue a fully canned RFP drafted by a vendor (Real Story Group can help you here with vendor-neutral templates)

Next Steps

If you're selecting digital workplace or marketing/engagement technology, be sure to check out RSG's hard-hitting vendor evaluation research.

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