Project Management / Admins / Architects

Key Considerations When Writing a Salesforce RFI/RFP

By Eliza Pepper

Requests For Information (RFIs) and Requests for Proposal (RFPs) are a useful approach for teams evaluating Salesforce tooling – they allow you to quickly source information on features, workflows, and pricing from a range of vendors. But, some teams find that this process doesn’t give them the information they need, or the confidence that they’ve done a fair appraisal of all the available options.

We see RFIs and RFPs from Salesforce teams of all shapes and sizes and know putting these documents together can be daunting. To help you get the answers you need when making a buying decision, here’s a quick guide to get you up and running with constructing your RFI or RFP.

Choose the Right Document for Your Team

Let’s start by diving into the differences between RFIs and RFPs (and RFQs), so you can decide which is right for you.

Requests For Information

An RFI, or Request For Information, is an initial document that you should use when you don’t fully understand the marketplace. For example, if you’ve never used a third-party release management solution but are now looking for one. The goal of an RFI isn’t to learn about the specifics of each vendor, such as pricing plans, but rather to discover what’s on offer. 

You’ll want to use an RFI to lay out your industry, Salesforce team size, and an overview of the problems you’re facing. Vendors will then help out by informing you of their key solutions and next steps.

Requests For Proposal

By contrast, an RFP, meaning Request For Proposal, is more tailored to your needs. Once you have an idea of the marketplace and what general solutions are on offer, you can use an RFP to learn more about how each vendor could solve specific problems you’re facing. By providing sufficient detail of your team size, workflows, and current tooling, vendors will be able to accurately provide details of how their offerings could work for you.

At this stage, you may also have some set requirements that a vendor must reach, so you’ll want to ask some direct questions too. What are their compliance certifications? What’s the retention period on their Salesforce backups? Can they handle Salesforce Industries? The vendor should get back to you with the answers to your questions and some more details on their offerings and approach.

Requests For Quotation

Some teams also use RFQs, Requests For Quotation, when they’ve narrowed down exactly what features they need and are making a decision primarily based on pricing. Vendors will return their total pricing, broken down into the costs for the requested features and team/org size. 

Separate RFQs are uncommon in the Salesforce space, as pricing concerns are either handled in the RFP or through communication with the vendor’s sales team.

Why Do Definitions Matter?

Understanding the differences between RFIs and RFPs is critical to getting the information you need from a vendor. If you’re searching for specific answers but send out a general RFI to vendors, you won’t get the detailed and tailored information you were looking for. 

A procurement process can be long as is, without the disruption to both you and the vendors by asking the wrong questions.

Set Your Expectations

RFIs and RFPs are great when used correctly, but teams with misaligned expectations will likely find themselves frustrated, behind on internal procurement deadlines, and closed off to the majority of solutions. 

Here are some key ways to identify and communicate your expectations, so you can make sure you’re getting the information you need:

  • Seek information on timeframes from each vendor: You can avoid missed procurement deadlines or rushed submissions by clarifying when a vendor will be able to deliver their proposal early in the process. This is especially true if you’re requesting customer references, as this may take the vendor some time to source.
  • Outline your challenges rather than a feature tick list: Sending through a list of features that you’re looking for won’t get you the most valuable answers. Instead, outline the challenges you’re looking to address. This will give vendors the opportunity to explain how their solution can solve those problems – their solution could be more effective than the feature you had in mind.
  • Give vendors the opportunity to ask for further clarification on the RFI/RFP: This will help you get the right answers first time instead of multiple iterations, if the questions have been misunderstood.
  • Expect differences in price: Every team has a budget, especially in the current economic climate. But going into an RFP simply looking for the cheapest solution will likely encourage a race to the bottom; often vendors who suspect that their tool isn’t the best fit for you will attempt to undercut each other just to secure the contract.

Be Clear on Your Problems

As we mentioned above, it’s more useful to list problems you want to solve rather than list features you hope will solve those problems. But, to do this, you need to understand the breadth and particularities of the problems you’re facing. Try to speak to a range of Salesforce team members, end-users, and key stakeholders to identify the biggest challenges or blockers for them in their work. 

If you’re writing an RFI because you’re looking to find out more about the third-party marketplace, it’s good to branch out and explore challenges that the wider business experiences with marketing, sales, and IT functions and outputs. Though these may not appear directly relevant at the beginning of your procurement process, sharing these broader challenges with vendors may highlight opportunities for a Salesforce solution to support wider business concerns.

Of course there will always be some specific and non-negotiables that you’re looking for in a vendor, largely compliance requirements. But outside of these concerns, you should always go to vendors with your problems rather than a list of the features you’re looking for. Different vendors may solve the same problem in different ways.

Ask Someone Hands-On to be Involved in the Writing

Involving those who are hands-on with Salesforce during the writing process, such as an admin or developer, will help you to describe your processes and problems most accurately. This will ultimately help give vendors the technical details and insight into your process that they need to understand your problems and provide the best solutions.

Try Before You Buy

RFIs and RFPs get you a lot of information on the marketplace and vendors quickly, and can also help you narrow your search down to a few vendors. But once you’ve identified the top candidates, it’s time to try the solutions out first-hand. A vendor’s proposal can never tell you how easy a tool is to use, how quickly your team can implement it, or how well it fits with your software stack.

You need hands-on experience with the tooling and workflows when it comes to making your final choice. A demo of the solution gives a useful overview of what’s possible, but allowing your Salesforce team to try out the software for themselves will probably give you your final answer. Get set up with a free trial and make the most of their support options during that time.

Final Thoughts

Salesforce sits at the heart of your business, so getting the most out of your Salesforce spend has huge benefits for the wider business. Thankfully, there’s a ton of useful content to help you get the most out of your Salesforce procurement experience:

The Author

Eliza Pepper

Eliza is a Technical Author for Gearset, the leading DevOps solution for Salesforce.

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