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This is the fourth post in our multipart series on request for proposal best practices. Give our previous post on managing the RFP timeline a read.

Clear, concise, specific RFPs save everyone time. Avoid confusion, delays, and keep your team on track during the process. Here's how to define expectations early and ensure potential suppliers can respond appropriately.


There’s an old saying, if you want to make beautiful music, you have to have everyone singing off the same page. If not, the result is pretty hard on the ears and definitely not the performance expected!

The same holds true with requests for proposals (RFPs). If you want participating vendors in concert, you have to give them the same play sheet in the form of a detailed scope of work, to get comparable bids.

Surprisingly, many companies are vague when they set forth their RFPs. Sometimes this is the result of trying to simply modify a standard corporate RFP document, intended for products such as office supplies, for a pallet RFP. Other times, the requestor doesn’t know the deep-dive details that are helpful to pallet suppliers. Or, due to an abbreviated RFP timeline, the scope of work didn’t get the planning time it deserved to really define what is needed and ensure potential suppliers could respond appropriately.

And when you have vendors playing it by ear, the proposals will be off key, making selection difficult to say the least.

To keep your RFP moving forward in a productive manner, make sure to provide all potential vendors with the same specific statement of work with expectations clearly defined. 

The document should include:

Statement of minimum qualifications to participate.

This should ask for proof of financial stability, annual reporting, insurance, and ability to service customer – at all locations!

Defined scope.

State whether you intend to end up with several local or regional agreements or one national contract and ask if/how the vendor is able to meet the requirement with the appropriate assets, personnel, equipment, and backup. This will separate those who can and cannot adequately service your account pretty quickly.


Specify the date by which you need pricing/proposals, when the award will be made, and the target roll-out date. (See Part 3 of our series for the specifics on this topic.)

Provide a mechanism for Q&A.

This process should be the same for all involved. Additionally, all questions and answers should be shared with all participants to keep things fair and transparent. An easy way to accomplish this is by distributing a running list of questions and answers to all vendors, updated as often as is practical (probably daily in the beginning, and then as-needed later in the process.)

Availability of site visits.

48forty highly recommends allowing site visits for all participants. See Part 1 in our RFP series for more.

Supplier plant visits.

Just as it’s important to allow suppliers to visit your facilities, it’s crucial for your local managers to visit the supplier facilities who will be servicing them. They’ll want to feel comfortable with the operation and level of service before implementation.

Definitions of pallets specs and services.

This should include a terminology page for Premium A, HT, odd sizes, and scrap. While you might think every vendor follows the same specs, it’s typically not the case, hence the need to spell it out.

Expected deliverables.

Detail your expectations for pallets (size, quantities), services and key performance indicators. Steer clear of service level agreements such as guarantees, penalties, credits for missed metrics and the like. These should come into play when the final contract is negotiated.

What suppliers must bring to the table.

 If you want your supplier to provide tractors, trailers, other equipment, employees, packaging, and safety stock, list those mandatories in your statement of work.

What you will provide.

Likewise, be clear about what you’ll provide to your vendor. What type of dock doors do you have? Is Internet available? Is there room for trailers to get in and out easily? These details support consistent bids from all vendors.

What items are negotiable.

Are you willing to alter your scope of work to get a better price? If the answer’s yes, state it in your RFP. Vendors who can be more flexible will appreciate it.
 48forty pallets

These are the basics that should be included in your RFP scope of work. (If you need help getting everyone on the same page, refer back to Part 2 of our series for internal communication tips.) 

Clear, concise, specific RFPs save everyone time, your team and the vendors. Besides, working in concert with potential vendors is much better than a free for all.

Our next installment in the 48forty RFP series explores the importance of a qualifying round.