Educators know that searching for curricular resources can be a struggle. How do you wade through the vast array of options to find what you need? How do you get attention from vendors? How do you keep track of your communication with vendors?
At Noodle Markets, we help K-12 leaders with quote requests, Requests for Information, and Requests for Proposal through our free digital purchasing platform. The process is simple enough: Educators detail what they want to buy and invite vendors in our vast database to respond. Within curriculum requests–whether for math assessments, literacy supplements, test prep, or others–some requests just seem to perform better. The educators receive more timely, qualified responses–and sometimes even better pricing.
Issuing a Request for Information is a powerful, and surprisingly simple, step to identify the curriculum that will best serve your students. We’ve identified these 7 best practices to get more qualified responses.
1. Give vendors enough lead time.
Some vendors may surprise you with what they can do with your existing tech infrastructure.Depending on the buying season, we recommend setting the response deadline for vendors at least three weeks in the future. Proposal responses take time for vendors to put together, especially for newer, often cutting-edge companies. If they are short-staffed but have a tight turnaround for your request, they may forego responding. We spoke with a K-8 math app provider who said, “We sometimes have to de-prioritize responding to smaller opportunities if the deadlines are too tight. Surviving in the space means getting big contracts sooner than later.”
2. Assessment components can be deal breakers (or dealmakers.)
Be clear if you want an assessment component included with the curriculum. Indicate which assessment types you are open to, be they adaptive, constructed responses, multiple choice questions, performance tasks, etc. You may already know, based on district or state guidelines, what works for you. At the RFI stage, though, it’s always worth it to indicate your interest in hearing about new methods vendors may be developing.
3. Standard-alignment is not usually flexible.
Make sure you are clear about the standard set you are adhering to within your courses, so vendors do not respond with proposals that do not apply. Sometimes curriculum is adaptable, but vendors may be wary when their products aren’t already included in state-approved vendor lists, especially if they know their product was not created with your needs in mind. If your situation is unique, let your RFI reflect that.
4. Tech, tech, tech.
More and more curricula include digital components, and some require specific tech for full functionality. Certainly indicate your network’s operating system, whether you are a 1:1 school, and wi-fi capabilities, even if you are planning on simply a textbook buy. Some vendors may surprise you with what they can do with your existing tech infrastructure. For school founders and schools evaluating their tech, let vendors know if you are flexible or mid-purchase on devices or infrastructure.
5. Look for opportunities to combine requests.
If you are looking for curriculum across subjects and grade levels, consider doing one general curriculum RFI and invite vendors to respond to all or part of the RFI. This could encourage vendors to offer more competitive volume pricing or enterprise service. Just be sure to clearly indicate that vendors will not be required to provide the entire need, to avoid discouraging more specialized companies from responding.
6. Let vendors know when/if you are flexible.
You’d be surprised how often essentials like number of students served, implementation dates, and professional development requirements go unmentioned or under-explained.One of the most common reasons we hear from vendors who do not respond is that they can not meet a certain part of the request. Sometimes, that feature was a wishlist item that was erroneously listed as part of a pre-qualification checklist, rather than an actual must-have.
In the same vein, you may discover that multiple vendors are appropriate for parts of the final need. Being flexible to split up an award can help you meet competitive purchasing regulations, like fair disbursement of business across businesses with special designations (minority-owned, veteran-owned, etc.). EDGAR regulations specifically require that you give such businesses a fair shot, even if it means sharing a contract.
7. Back to basics.
It may seem obvious, but ensure that you are providing complete, accurate, and relevant information. You’d be surprised how often essentials like number of students served, implementation dates, and professional development requirements go unmentioned or under-explained. Vendors take the time to respond to RFIs, not for fun, but because they think it may lead to a real purchase. Being thoughtful about your RFI tells vendors you are a serious buyer.
Have another tip for writing rock-solid RFIs? Tweet us!