How To Write a Request for Proposal (RFP)
How to Write a Request for Proposal
A request for proposal, or RFP, is a business tool that enables companies to search for consultants or freelancers to fill a need. Putting together an effective RFP will increase the chances that you will receive good proposals from well-qualified candidates. The more upfront you are with your expectations in the RFP, the more likely you will be to find the right match for the job.
Determining Your Needs
Know what you want.The first step is knowing the type of outcome you would like from a project.Having a vision will help you ask the right questions about a consultant’s services.
- Identify the type of project you are doing and list the steps that you will need to accomplish the project.
- Determine the type of help you think you need. Are your needs technical, design-related, or both? Will you need one person or a team to work on your project? Can the work be done remotely or do you need to find someone locally with whom you can meet in person?
- Ask yourself what kind of developers or specialists you need to hire to accomplish your project.
- Having an initial vision does not mean that the project has to (or will) turn out exactly like you have envisioned it.
Assess your goals and mission.Your company’s big-picture goals and mission may be as important as the details of the project itself.
Determine your budget.You need to have a concrete number for the amount of money you will be able to spend on the project. Being upfront with your allowed budget will help your relationship with the consultant you hire in the long run.
- Talk to your accounting or finance department ahead of time. Don’t just assume you know how much money you will be able to spend on a project.
- Be sure you are including all parts of the project and all individuals you will need to hire to help you meet the needs of your project.
- Plan for extra expenses. Projects—particularly big projects—rarely come in under budget. Leaving yourself some extra room for unexpected expenses from the beginning will help keep you in the black.
- Offer a competitive rate. Remember that paying less often leads to poorer quality. At the same time, overpaying may not get you a significantly better project than simply paying the “going rate.”
Put together a timeline.You will need to put together a detailed timeline with deadlines for both the proposal and the project itself.You may want to break the project into steps or stages and assign a different deadline for each step.
- Make a reverse calendar. Start with the final deadline for the finished project and work backwards, determining individual deadlines as you go.
- Assign a deadline for the proposal that is 2-6 weeks after you send out your RFP, depending on the level of detail and customization you need.
- Assign yourself a deadline for writing the RFP as well.
Planning the RFP
Read other RFPs.One of the best ways to write an effective RFP is to read other people’s requests. This will give you a sense of what information should be included, what kind of layout is easiest to read and follow, and what kind of supplemental visuals should be included.
- Search online for sample RFPs. There are many samples available that detail the structure and important information.
- Read actual RFPs from other companies. Pretend that you are a consultant who is trying to put together a proposal. Read other people’s RFPs and notice if there is any information missing that would help you write a better proposal. Be sure to include that information in your RFP.
- Try to find RFPs from companies that match your business profile. If you have an acquaintance at another company, ask if they have any old RFPs that you could look at as a model.
- Look at RFP templates online.They may be a good starting place, but you can use them to learn how to write your RFP and then do it on your own to have greater flexibility for formatting and detail.
Establish the projected scope and boundaries of your project.Before writing the RFP, you should know the scope and boundaries of your project.You may need to re-scale the project if you realize that you are asking for too much in too little time.
- It may help to keep a list of things that this specific project will not address, even if you plan to return to the ideas in the future. (You probably will not include this information in the RFP.)
- Being clear about the scope of the project in your RFP will enable consultants to put together better proposals for your project.
- Be realistic about what outcomes you can expect given the budget and time constraints you will put on the consultant.
List your “must haves” and your “like to haves.” One way to know what you really want in response to your RFP is to make a list of your needs and your wants.Each of your needs or “must haves” should be included in your RFP. You may want to include some or most of your “wants,” but be sure your RFP does not become unrealistic or too cumbersome.
- You may want to clarify in your RFP which items are necessary and which are preferred.
- Too many preferred (want) items may scare off potential consultants who feel that they are unqualified based on the idealized description.
- Keep your “like to haves” list for evaluating proposals once they come in.
Decide who will read the proposals and award the project.The person who will read the proposals that are sent in response to the RFP should probably at least read, if not write, the RFP before it goes out.
- Be sure the person’s expectations are stated clearly in the RFP.
Specify a candidate’s minimum qualifications.In addition to project-specific needs and wants, you may want to delineate your expectations about the background, education, and experience, of consultants who will be working on your project.
Draft a scorecard that you will use to evaluate proposals.Doing this before you send the RFP out can help you fine-tune your needs and expectations before you write it.This way, you will be sure to include and emphasize the most important factors in your RFP.
- Determine a rating system for proposals. Consider multiple categories with a 1-10 scale and a total score.
- The proposal(s) with the highest score(s) will meet your needs most clearly and will likely be chosen.
- Some categories to consider including on your scorecard are aesthetics/design, vision, implementation, budget plan, experience and references, ability to meet deadlines, integration of your business model into their design, innovation, use of technology, professionalism, response to constructive feedback, and communication ability.
Writing the RFP
Include all relevant details.While you may not want to overwhelm the readers of your RFP with unnecessary information, you should include all relevant details.These may include:
- Who you are and what your company’s goals are
- Why you need a consultant for your project
- What outcomes you expect at the end of the project
- How you will work with the company
- How much you are able to pay
- How and when to submit the proposal
- How you want the proposal to be formatted
- When you will need each stage of the project completed
- How you will evaluate and select proposals
- When you plan to notify the selected consultant or firm
- Who to contact in case of questions
Be specific, but not too specific.While you want your RFP to be clear and specific about the type of project and consultant you expect, you do not want to make it so specific that you exclude good candidates. Finding a balance can be tricky.
- If you are not specific enough, you will likely receive a flood of proposals that may be vague or not in line with your vision.
- If you are too specific, you will not receive enough proposals and you may not feel like you have enough choices.
- You may need to rewrite your RFP if the proposals are too vague or you do not receive enough of them.
Organize the RFP effectively.Because you are providing a lot of information in a short amount of space, organization is the key to an effective RFP.
- Provide clear sections. Having sections can help organize the different parts of your proposal into easily-digestible “bites” of information.
- Use bolding and underlining to emphasize the most important points, but do so sparingly. Less than 10% of the text should be bolded or underlined.
- Break up long sections of text with bullet points, or divide into several shorter sections.
- Add a few well-designed graphics to add visual interest and break up text.
Request references.Be sure to request references as part of your RFP.You should be able to find out whether past clients have been happy with both the process of working with a consultant or firm and with the final project that they received.
- Be sure to actually call the references that the consultant provides. Ask whether the past client would hire the consultant again, and be sure to address process as well as product in your questioning.
Proofread your RFP before sending it out.Sending out an unclear RFP or one that is riddled with grammar errors and typos is unprofessional and could cost you some good proposals. To be taken seriously as a company, you should send out a quality product.
- Have someone else proofread your RFP as well. It can be difficult to spot your own errors.
- You may want to try having someone outside of the project or even outside the company read your RFP for clarity of purpose.
Sending Out the RFP
Send RFPs to reputable consulting firms.Though big firms often have many different consultants working for them, they will try to protect the image and reputation of their firm, so they are unlikely to have employees that perform below their levels of expectation.
- Search for reviews of the firm online. Online reviews aren’t perfect, but they are often a good place to start. Take negative reviews with a grain of salt, however. Be sure to read the specifics of any complaints and ignore any emotional language.
- Ask a co-worker or an acquaintance from a company similar to yours who they recommend sending your RFP to. Even competitor companies are likely to give you an honest recommendation for reputable firms.
- Call a firm and ask them for references. It is not uncommon to ask individual consultants for references, so a firm should be willing to provide references as well. Be sure to ask the reference specific questions about the process of working with the firm and whether they would use the firm again for future projects.
Limit the number of firms or individuals you send your RFP to.If your RFP goes out to anyone and everyone, you will either receive too many proposals to realistically consider or your RFP will not be taken seriously.
- Developing a proposal takes a significant amount of time, and a firm or consultant is unlikely to be willing to take your request seriously and spend the time working on it if they see your RFP pop up in too many different venues.
- Focus instead on targeting fewer proposals of higher quality.
Give an adequate amount of time for individuals to put together a quality proposal.Giving firms and consultants enough time to read and absorb your RFP, create their own vision for the project, and put together a quality proposal will give you a better sense of what the final project will be like.
Stick to your deadline.A firm that sends in a proposal late is likely to also be late on project deadlines. If you are serious about your deadlines, do not consider proposals that were submitted after the deadline passed. If you are less concerned about deadlines than a quality product, you may want to still consider late submissions.
Video: RFP Template - How to Write a 'Request For Proposal' Document
Health Benefits of Ground Flaxseed
What the Little Girl Who Starred in Matilda Looks Like Now
How to Think Small and Actually Make Big Changes
How to Make a Scotch Cocktail With Raspberry Brandy and Amaro Montenegro
Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe
Ryan Gosling Interview On His Secret Fantasy
How to Garden in a Mediterranean Climate
New Study Finds Duration in Sleep Decreases Suicide Risk
Two Diet Wrongs Don’t Make a Diet Right
Many Test Results Left Unread as Patients Leave Hospital
Finally, Positive Entertainment for Girls
7 Women Share The Best New Years Resolutions They Ever Stuck With