Best Practices for Responding to a GRC Vendor Assessment

Richa Tiwari

21 Apr 2023

Answering a GRC (Governance, Risk, and Compliance) vendor assessment is an important step for companies that want to demonstrate their commitment to compliance and risk management to potential customers.

In this piece, we’ll cover how you can best respond to a prospect’s vendor assessment so you both can seal the deal. By following these best practices, you’ll be able to provide a comprehensive and accurate response to the assessment and establish a positive working relationship.

What is a Vendor Assessment, and Why is It Important? 

Simply put, a vendor assessment is the evaluation of the vendor’s capability to deliver on its promise of implementing and maintaining security controls. Organizations that deal with data that are looking to work with another party will always have these assessments in place so they can see if the vendor is secure, because why would you want to work with someone if they’re not putting internal and customer data protection in the forefront? 

It’s important to note that there’s not just one “type” of vendor assessment. The company and its industry will determine how many frameworks, criteria, templates, and methodologies to use when evaluating a vendor. 

However, all assessments are risk-oriented, and you’ll find that they focus on the same few items:

  • Compliance 
  • Cybersecurity
  • Finance 
  • Operations

Vendor Assessment Tips for the Vendor Responding

From the perspective of the vendor – the individual or company that supplies services for another company (or for that company’s customers) – vendor assessments can be a huge pain. The assessment itself can be quite complex, and that paired with an SLA that requires you to have the assessment complete in an absurdly short amount of time adds to the pressure. Oh, and let’s not forget that you’re probably not the only company the prospect is talking to, either. When that contract is on the line and the vendor assessment is one of the final hurdles, you won’t have a choice but to move fast. 

But speed means nothing if your company fails to provide satisfactory, accurate responses during the assessment, so let’s dive into the best practices that you should keep in mind. 

Review the Assessment Carefully

When you receive the vendor assessment, take the time to read it carefully. Make sure you understand each question and what information is being requested. Some questions may be technical in nature, so if you feel even a pang of doubt about answering them on your own, remember that it’s okay to not know everything, and then find the subject matter expert so they can take lead. 

On the other side of the same coin, if you or your team are unsure about any part of the assessment, don’t hesitate to reach out to the prospect for clarification either. Asking for additional information can come off as a good sign, since it shows that you’re meticulous. 

Gather Information

To respond to the assessment, you’ll need to provide a variety of information about your company’s compliance and risk management processes. This may include policies, procedures, and other documentation that demonstrate your company’s compliance with relevant regulations and standards. 

You may also need to provide evidence of certifications or audits that your organization has undergone. It’s important to gather all of this information before you begin responding to the assessment to ensure a smooth and timely delivery. 

Friendly Tip: A GRC platform with APIs to connect to your tech stack can help streamline processes (like information collection), increase efficiency, and improve accuracy. Check out our integrations that drive automation for our various applications.

Be Honest

Honesty is the best policy, and that’s especially the case during security reviews. When responding to the assessment, it’s essential to be candid and transparent. Again, if you don’t know the answer to a question, the worst thing you could do is make something up. Instead, acknowledge that you don’t have the information at hand and offer to provide it at a later time. 

If there are any areas where your company is not fully compliant or has identified risks, be open and honest about them. Sure, it’s possible that that gap is the reason why you weren’t able to partner up with the prospect, but that’s a much better outcome than, say, being disingenuous and then putting both their and their customer’s sensitive data in jeopardy. 

On a more positive note, disclosing that same information with your prospect can help build trust and show that you do in fact take compliance and risk management seriously. Perhaps you’re going through an observation period and that’s why you haven’t been certified or attested yet. 

Whatever the case, the point still remains: the truth is not just what you say, but what you do, so make sure your words match your actions. 

Friendly Tip: Connecting your vendor assessment answers to your compliance program allows for programmatic, real-time responses, and the most accurate, up-to-date answers. See how it can be done here.

Address Any Gaps

To piggy-back off of the previous point, if the assessment identifies any gaps in your company’s GRC processes, be transparent about them and explain what steps you are taking to address them. This may involve developing new policies or procedures, implementing new technologies, or providing additional training to your staff. Then, it’s crucial to follow through on these plans, so accountability measures are a must.

Your GRC platform should have a gap assessment tool so you and your team know what has to be done to meet additional requirements or standards. A great gap analysis tool will look a little something like this, and will help to determine the level of effort your team will need to put forward.

Keep It Secure

It’s important to protect sensitive information for a vendor assessment, and avoid sending sensitive information via an unsecured email. Instead, consider using a secure data room and/or a secure portal to share important documents. 

A data room allows you to privately share specific documents with certain prospects or customers. What’s nice about data rooms is that you have full control over who can see what. If you’re using a tool that has a data room feature, it allows you to easily incorporate NDAs into your information sharing process. 

Secure portals are public-facing pages that address questions that you would get from security questionnaires and vendor assessments. They display your company’s compliance and security hygiene, which entails:

  • Certifications & Attestations -provides assurance to customers, partners, and other stakeholders that your company’s operations, products, or services meet certain standards or regulatory requirements, which can help build trust and credibility in the marketplace.
  • Policies and Controls – gives a transparent view on the policies and controls that govern your entire organization, and proves how compliant you are with each policy, and how you continuously monitor every control 
  • Subprocessors – shows to prospects and customers how you’re regularly tested for security and compliance
  • Common Controls Framework Mapping – allows them to see how each control in your program maps to multiple requirements in numerous security, privacy, and other compliance standards 

Portals can be a great way to reduce the number of questionnaires received, since the information they display answers most of the questions on a vendor assessment. Still curious about what a portal can do for you? See what else they can do, and more, here. Check out what our portal looks like!

Build in Efficiencies 

As mentioned earlier, time is of the essence here, so it’s crucial that you’re doing things in the most efficient way possible. There are tools out there (like our TrustShare for example cough cough) that empowers team collaboration, leverages AI to answer assessments, and connects to your systems and compliance & security program to automatically pull information from. 

We’re all about efficiency here. Check out what our experts had to say about the following topics: