Skip to main content

Supply Chain Master Series On Demand

Why You Should Outsource Your Next Transportation RFP (& 4 Benefits You Can Expect)

how to outsource an RFP tile

Article Overview

No one knows your transportation network like you.

It's easy to assume that in order to have a great transportation request for proposals (RFP), you need to manage it all in-house. 

While every shipper needs to be an active part of their bid, your don't have to do it all by yourself. 

In fact, most shippers don't.

According to our research on supply chain outsourcing, 72% are using some level of third-party support for their RFP management. 

72% of shippers outsource at least some of their RFP management

Questions to Ask Yourself First

You need to consider how much time and energy running a bid takes from your team.

  • Are you able to run your bid without disrupting your operations?
  • Do you have the technology and/or labor power you need to handle all the details?
  • Are you giving yourself the best chance to grow and strengthen your carrier network?
  • Can you do all of this while managing your vendors, keeping your current carriers happy and getting buy-in internally at your company?

If you cannot confidently answer "yes" to all those, you should consider how outsourcing some or all of your RFP management to a third-party logistics company (3PL) can help you get better rates and service.

Let's dive a little deeper into some tell-tale signs it might be time to bring in some outside help.

Tell-Tale Signs You Might Need to Outsource an RFP

It can be difficult to know if your RFPs are in need of an extra set of hands.

After all, your procurement events in the past have resulted in awards, so it’s natural to think the process is running as smoothly as it can as long as it keeps running.

Here are some more subtle signals to watch out for that might let you know your RFP process could be strengthened by outsourcing. 

  • You’re using Excel to request rates from carriers instead of a centralized RFP system.
  • You have procurement needs but lack the internal resources to manage them (you can’t staff a procurement team).
  • You’re struggling to set KPI benchmarks that will ensure the service you need.
  • Your incumbent carriers are not performing in terms of important KPIs (on-time performance, tender acceptance).
  • You struggle with determining which lanes to aware to 3PLs vs. asset-based carriers.
  • Your primary rates are much higher than what you are seeing on the spot market.
  • You’re interested in expanding or contracting the size of your carrier network, but don’t know where to start based on your freight mix.
  • You’re having trouble finding stable service in your more volatile lanes.
  • Your team lacks experience assessing bids and deciding on award scenarios based on the KPIs that matter to your supply chain.

4 Ways a Third-Party Provider Can Boost Your Next RFP

Wondering what’s in it for you when you outsource procurement? Think about these potential benefits you could enjoy by letting a 3PL manage your RFP.

Keep in mind while you’re considering them that you can either hand over the keys to the RFP process completely or have your provider zero in on individual elements — they can provide all of the services outlined below or any ones individually.

4 ways outsourcing an RFP can help chart

1. Create a More Competitive Bid Event

What a 3PL will do:

Chances are, your provider has relationships with far more carriers than you do.

They’ve built a sizeable network over the years, and they can tap into it to create more competition with your incumbents in your next bid.

Whether you’re looking for new truckload contract rates, favorable LTL customer-specific pricing or reliable intermodal pricing, a provider can connect you.

How a 3PL will do it:

Your provider will assess the abundant operational data they’ve collected over the years to identify carriers who perform well in the lanes you need filled and who offer the equipment and service you need.

With this information, they can contact carriers on your behalf to invite them into the bid.

How you’ll benefit:

More carriers in your event means more opportunities to find a strong service match, especially with a carrier pool that’s already been vetted by your provider.

You can also score a better rate with more carriers in the mix.

If your event has multiple rounds in which you’ll deliver feedback to your carriers about how competitive their initial bid was vs. the field before they resubmit, you can leverage that competition to zero in on the rate you want. 

2. Handle Communication With Carriers

What a 3PL will do:

Running an RFP is real, hard work, and it’s very possible your team has enough on its plate as it is.

Your RFP management provider can help lighten the load by stepping in as the main point of contact for the carriers in your bid.

How a 3PL will do it:

External labor can take over any number of time-consuming communications. They can:

  • Answer questions about bid specifics (forms, deadlines, etc.).
  • Handle tech troubleshooting with the bid management system.
  • Vet carrier bids for completion and accurate information and reply in the event of an incomplete submission.

How you’ll benefit:

Instead of answering endless emails from carriers, you’ll be able to consolidate all your communication to a single point of contact. Your provider will likely be able to handle most issues without you even needing to get involved.

This will free up your internal team’s time to handle more important procurement and operational tasks and can accelerate the process to reduce the timeline from bid to award.

3. Present Bid Data and Make Award Recommendations

What a 3PL will do:

When all the bids are in, your provider can guide your next step.

They can create an executive summary of all entrants’ proposals, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each, and make recommendations for primary and secondary awards.

How a 3PL will do it:

This is where your provider’s experience really shines. Their specialists should be able to make clear-eyed, incisive assessments of each carrier’s potential to perform at a high level in your lanes.

As part of this, they can contribute volatility profiling, which is when they analyze volatility in your lanes (and in the latest freight market forecast) to help determine whether asset-based carriers or brokers are preferable for your awards.

Brokers are often better able to handle volatile rate environments due to their ability to tap into multiple sources of capacity.

How you’ll benefit:

With expert eyes analyzing your bids, your network performance should improve.

If your incumbent carriers aren’t performing up to your standards, a provider can help you find ones that will. They can optimize performance for any lane, region, freight profile or service need.

4. Provide a Bid Management System

What a 3PL will do:

Technology tailor-made for running a bid is a somewhat niche product that can be costly to acquire and time-consuming to learn.

When you work with a provider, you can benefit from a professional-grade system they already have in place without breaking your budget on a new tech investment.

How a 3PL will do it:

Your provider can either give you access to their bid management system or run your bid through it themselves.

If you choose the latter option, you’ll be able to entirely skip the learning curve for a new platform, further improving your bid’s overall efficiency.

How you’ll benefit:

Outsourcing your technology will let you replace haphazard spreadsheets and emails with standardized forms, repeatable processes and industry-leading digital systems.

The result? Your RFP will look just as professional as you are, and carriers will take you more seriously than ever as a viable shipper.

Making the Pitch to Your Procurement Team to Outsource Your Next RFP

If you already have an in-house procurement team, it can be a tough sell to start outsourcing. It is only natural for them to worry that their jobs are in danger.

If you want to get internal buy-in for outsourcing your next procurement event, consider the following ways of repackaging the above benefits to make clear to them that working with a provider will empower them to succeed.

  • Outsourcing helps manage their workload and allows them to work with more focus. 
    Your team doesn’t want to be wasting their time answering troubleshooting emails or sending deadline reminders — someone else can do that for them.
  • Outsourcing creates connections that will enrich your next in-house bid. 
    If you expand your network with new carriers on your provider’s recommendation, you’ll strengthen the incumbent pool for the next RFP you want to run on your own.
  • Outsourcing a bid management system makes them look good. 
    Carriers appreciate tech that’s easy to work with and creates a consistent experience; they’ll be happier to work with your team if they’re using such a system. 

Ask Coyote About Outsourcing Your Next RFP
(Or the Rest of Your Supply Chain)

We have years of experience managing RFPs for shippers of all sizes.  

We’re happy to connect you to our network of 70,000+ carriers, our bid technology and our expertise for your next procurement event.

But RFP management is just one of many supply chain solutions you can outsource. We can handle it all, from day-to-day execution to longer-term consulting.

Learn about everything a leading 3PL can take off your hands to smooth out your operations and create a stronger, more resilient supply chain.

Explore Outsourced Supply Chain