RFPs: How to Write an Effective Request for Proposal

If you have a list of suppliers, and you’d like to select the ideal ones that can meet your needs and requirements for your product, a request for proposal (RFP) is what you need.

An RFP provides you with the opportunity to gather creative, insightful solutions for your project problems. By doing so, it tells you the expertise and strength of the potential suppliers, saving you tons of time and money from hunting for them by yourself. And in the project process, time is money.

Then comes the question, how can you make sure that you’re writing an effective RFP that is bound to find you the ideal supplier? What you should do to make sure that you’re not wasting your time and that of the potential suppliers’?

Here in this post, we’ll share with you how to craft an effective RFP that will get you what you want.

But first, let’s dive in to this question: how are RFI (request for information), RFP (request for proposal) and RFQ (request for quotation) different from each other?

RFI, RFP and RFQ: how are they different

To make it easier to understand, we can think of the process of looking for the ideal supplier as an engagement between two strangers.

An RFI, request for information, is like asking the other party to “tell me something about you“, after you share some general information about yourself. That said, the information you get is likely to be general, since you didn’t ask for specific answers. But such information will be good enough for you to decide whether you’d like to continue the discussion.

An RFP, request for proposal, is like asking some specific questions and expect the other party to give you detailed, positive responses. For example, you might ask questions like have you done something before, and how did you deal with similar situation back then.

An RFQ, request for quotation, is more specific in that it asks for pricing details of the products only. For example, the other party has already told you how they deal with project with similar goals before, and you just want to know how much did the product and service cost.

In a nutshell, you use the RFI to filter out a number of unqualified suppliers, the RFP to find the right resources for your project, and the RFQ to find the right price.

How to write an effective RFP?

To find you the ideal supplier, it’s important that you draft your RFP right. Let’s break it down and see how you can do it right.

Here are the elements that you should include in an effective RFP:

1) Brief project overview

Describe the “pain point” in your project, and what expertise you’d like to see in the supplier to help you solve the problem. When needed, also state clear what the current situation is, and what improvements you’d like to see. Such information would help your potential suppliers know if later engagement is worthwhile.

2) Your company background

Summarize what your company do and who are your target audience. Note this, your potential suppliers could see how your organization work and your company value, which would help them make the decision of replying your RFP or not.

3) Project goals

Define clearly what goals you’d like to achieve in the project. It’s better that you clarify the goals for each phase of the project, so you can involve not just your team, but your potential suppliers in your project. By doing so, you can assure that everyone is on the same page.

4) Scope of work

Apart from clarifying the goals, it’s also important to detail the project scope of work. Include in the RFP the milestones, deliverables, expected end products from the supplier, and timeline for all deliverables. That said, you must have a profound and clear mindset for your project, and you can’t spend more time preparing the RFP if you want to save more time and money later.

5) Technical requirements

Explain the technical issues you need to resolve, and what are holding you back from solving the problems by yourself. Be it lacking the right person, or limited resources, all you need to do is to be honest with your situation, and see what creative and skillful solutions can the potential suppliers provide under such circumstance.

6) Budget

Giving your perspective suppliers a budget range also contribute to them making the decision. It also eliminate the possibility that you are to be surprised by the highly skillful solutions but also high price when you further engage with the supplier. In some project, budget constrains could be the deal-breaker for both sides.

7) Examples

Seeing is believing. In the case of a request for proposal, seeing the actual demos or examples would definitely earn you trust from the suppliers. A demo or example of how the suppliers help their clients with similar questions provides you with an insight to see if they are actually as good as they claim to be. Gauge upon the examples, and think about how far your project can go with the help from such suppliers, then make the final call.

To sum up, taking your time preparing for a request for proposal before you engage with a somewhat okay supplier is definitely a time and money saver. Include in your RFP the right questions and content means that you’ll get more effective responses later. And the skills to write the right RFP requires you to practice, reflect, and improve.

Should you have any questions regarding the request for proposal, feel free to leave us a comment, or reach out. We’ll be more than happy to help.

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