One of the less positive aspects of undertaking an RFP for a data-driven marketing technology solution is that solution providers often don’t like participating in them very much. In some respects that’s too bad; if you’ve decided to take the rigorous approach to your decision making that an RFP suggests, the short-listed providers will just have to go with it if they want to have a chance of being chosen. However, it’s important to make the process as fair and open as possible and providing the opportunity for answering questions is a key element.
This might take the form of all participating vendors submitting written questions to which an aggregated set of answers are issued. In other cases a conference call or even meeting might be held to answer queries. The idea is though is that everyone participating gets the same opportunity to obtain clarifications, and that the same information is shared with all participants. Where the requirements or solution in hand are particularly complex, there could be a subsequent round of queries and feedback to ensure that everyone obtains the detail required.
An approach like this ensures that solution providers are confidant that they have understood the requirements (and process) of the RFP properly and can deliver their best response. At the same time, sharing the questions and answers maintains the level playing field that is important to a fair and consistent outcome (especially in public sector situations). You may still come under pressure from solution providers to grant them an individual meeting or opportunity to present their “unique approach”, but at least this way you can push back and point out that everyone is being treated the same way.