How to Write a Request for Proposal: A Detailed Guide
A request for proposal (RFP) is not a new term in the business world. Many professional agencies, manufacturing companies, and other businesses find themselves sending RFPs at one point or the other. Therefore, if you work with suppliers or vendors, you need to know how to write a request for proposal.
Writing an excellent request for a proposal isn’t easy because it shows your potential partners who you’re. This means that a good proposal should start with clarity. With the right guidance, you can be able to draw up a professional and clear RFP that will appeal to the right suppliers who’ll help you grow your business.
What Is a Request for Proposal?
A request for proposal which is sometimes also called a request for quotation (RFQ) is a document that a company issues to a supplier. An RFP can be issued when a business wants to buy some products or services from the supplier, and would like to make the specifications available to the public.
RFP’s or RFQ’s allows the company to invite competitive prices and quality bids. This is why a company needs to prepare a correct RFP so that it does not attract unnecessary bids that will waste their time. An RFP will direct the supplier on how to bid because it gives them guidelines on how to fulfill the plan of the project.
Bids received through RFPs are usually evaluated by the guidelines specified on the same project. There’s proposal management software that makes it easy for companies to evaluate and respond to proposals.
Writing a Request for Proposal
To help you write a better RFP, we have put together a list of some of the critical points that you should include in your document. Not all the items that we’ll cover on this guide need to be presented in the same order. This guide only represents what you should include in your RFP and how best to keep it simple.
When writing an RFP, it’s important to start with an introduction. Introduce your company and what you’re all about. Do not assume that the suppliers know about you. There are chances that some have never heard about you and do not know your values.
You should also introduce the purpose of the RFP. While doing this, do not only state what you require the service provider to deliver but also why. Make it brief so that the suppliers get a clear picture of what you want.
When talking about your project, try not to talk about a solution, especially if it’s a service that you need. Just mention the problem. This is because there are several solutions available, and each supplier uses a different one, and it’s better to know how best they can work it out rather than conforming to your solution.
One of the main reasons why companies write RFPs is because they need something completed, and this also means that they have a goal to accomplish. You need to clearly state this on the proposal even if it means that you’ve to outline individual tasks and the criteria that will be involved.
Clearly state what you’re looking for in a vendor and how you’ll determine the winning proposal. When you’ve in mind the organization that you’re hoping to work with, you’ll know your audience and also how best to write.
Estimated Selection Schedule and Project Timeline
Your project has a deadline, and the vendors also need to be made aware of the deadline before they submit their proposal so that they can determine if they’re able to meet them. If you fail to mention the deadlines, you might end up receiving several proposals that might not meet the requirements.
Do not forget to allow the vendors some time to ask questions about the project if they need to. This way, they’ll save both you and them some hassle. The timeline you set for the submission of the proposals, as well as the project’s timeline, should be as realistic as possible. You should also indicate where the vendors should submit their proposals.
If you’re flexible with the project’s timeline, include the same on the RFP so that you do not lock out other vendors who might be the best fit for the project but might need more time to do it.
Your request for proposals is incomplete without a checklist. Outline clearly what you expect the bidders to include in their proposals. Without this, it’ll be impossible to fault or disqualify them, and this will only make the selection process longer. The vendors need to know the elements that you expect to receive from them.
This is also a good way to help you determine the vendors that are willing to comply with the demands. It’s in your best interest to clearly outline the expectations. This will help to eliminate the vendors that do not meet them.
Your checklist can include:
- Format of submission
- Background information
- Proven record of success
- Samples of previous work where applicable
- Cost of services
- Certification or licenses
- Technical skills or expertise
- Scope of work
- Terms and Conditions
Whatever you choose to include on the list, ensure it’ll help you determine the best candidate, and that it covers all the basic information needed. With a laid out format, bidders will also understand what you need.
To avoid receiving highly quoted proposals, you should quote the budget on the RFP, and if there’s room for negotiation. This way, if a vendor feels that they can work within your budget, they’ll move forward and submit their proposal.
You should also make the vendors aware of any potential roadblocks that they may come across during the project implementation. The roadblocks can include anything, for example, lack of adequate resources.
Including this in your RFP will help eliminate bidders who are not up to the challenge. You’ll also be able to determine vendors who are skilled enough and have the expertise to handle any challenges that they meet.
Tips to Speed up Your RFP Development and Preparation
Now that you know how to outline the RFP and what to include in it, it’s time to also know how to write one fast and get a quick response as well.
Here are a few tips to help you:
Pick a Format
There’s no ultimate format that you need to follow when writing the RFP. Select a format that includes all the common and essential elements like the one we have covered above. Look at your needs and know whether there’s a need to include all the details.
Check out Some Templates
If you have never written an RFP before, it’s prudent to consider going through a few templates and examples to have an idea of how to go about it. Remember, every company’s needs are different and, therefore, you do not have to copy exactly what other companies have written.
Include Standard Questions
To get the right answers from vendors, you also need to ask the right questions. Some of the areas to cover include:
- Their implementation plan
- If they offer a trial period
- How they handle customer complaints
- If you can speak to any of their current customers
- Their competitors
- If they have various training options
You should also ask questions that can support your unique needs or that’re more specific to your company or niche.
Issue the Right Request
RFP’s serve a specific purpose, and if you need more information, consider also issuing an RFI or RFQ. These two are more direct, and vendors tend to respond to them faster than an RFP, which is a more detailed report that will allow you to know more about a vendor.
Use Tools to Simplify the Process
We’re living in a digital age, and this means there’s a digital tool for almost everything. Do not tire yourself with doing everything manually. Use an RFP software that will help you create, issue, and evaluate the results.
Make it Clear
This will determine the kind of vendors who respond to your proposal and how they respond to it. You may be able to understand what your company wants, but, this will not be important if you’re not able to articulate the same to the potential vendors.