Published in  
Capture Management
 on  
March 22, 2021

How to Spot RFP Red Flags

Spotting RFP red flags may seem tricky, but this skill can ultimately save you endless time and resources in your quest for a viable bid.

As a contractor, we understand the time and effort that goes into each and every bid proposal. While a typical RFP may have one or two warning signs, several red flags is a definite indication that there may be more at play, and that this particular bid is not viable. By sharpening your ability to spot the bad apples, you are opening up your time to focus on the many purchasing entities that are prepared to give you a bid.

Unrealistic Timelines

Timelines and due dates with unrealistic deadlines is a strong indicator of a bid that is not viable. Due dates that are approaching quickly can indicate an impatient and unreasonable purchasing entity that isn’t worth pursuing. It may also be an indication that the government agency pushing out the RFP doesn’t have a strong knowledge grasp of what they’re asking for. 

Along the same lines of unrealistic timelines is the issue of RFPs that have a vague or unspecified timeline. This may include deliverables without due dates, fixed project details that don’t factor in time needed, etc. 

Unsure Purchasing Entity 

A purchasing agent who doesn’t know exactly what they want can be a frustrating hurdle for many contractors. At the end of the day, if they are unsure about what they want or what outcome they would prefer, it is likely that this particular purchasing agent will be difficult to work with. Uncertainty and inability to nail down exactly what problem that they’re looking to solve can also lead to unrealistic expectations for price points, time of project completion, and other details.

Vague Language 

Vague language can also be a red flag in the RFP world. Not only does it not allow contractors enough information to determine if they are a good fit for the project, but it is yet another indication that the purchasing entity may not have foundational knowledge needed to evaluate bids. Vague language can have many different forms. For example, there may be a strict 6pm due date for the official bid. But if the purchasing agent lives on the east coast, but the project is set in Texas, there is a lot of room for discrepancy. Ideally, terms and conditions that are clearly stated and follow a strict succession are not only easiest to understand, but also leave the least room for failure.

Termination Clauses 

Unreasonable timelines and blurry expectations are frustrating, but RFPs with strict termination clauses are a major red flag. These kinds of RFPs have stated conditions that allow them to end your contract on virtually any whim that they deem appropriate. This is a dangerous and tricky detail, and it can cause significant wasted time and resources in the future. Most RFPs will have termination clauses, but for reasonable failures such as not producing the deliverable, etc. 

Wired Bids 

While government contracting is designed to be a free and equitable market for all contractors, this is not always the case. Wired bids are bids where the winner has likely been predetermined, and the purchasing entity only issued an RFP as a legal formality. Luckily for contractors, wired bids are relatively easy to spot. One of the obvious signs of a wired bid are strict vendor requirements that likely only can be met by a specific contractor. Learning to spot a wired bid will save contractors time in the long run, and allows more time to be focused on the many purchasing entities that are willing to give your business a fair bid. 

Still Unsure?

If you are having trouble determining if an RFP is viable or not, please reach out to our team of experts at trytks.com. Determining early on if a RFP has notable red flags can save loads of time later on.

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