Successful projects begin with strong partnerships. To find strong partners for an upcoming project, it’s wise to begin by soliciting bids for necessary supplies or services. This solicitation is called a request for proposal (RFP).
An RFP helps you collect detailed information so you can select the best supplier for a project. If you’ve never created an RFP before, we’ve built a simple, effective RFP template to help. Using this template for the RFP and selection processes will allow you to quickly create requests containing the specifications and guidelines necessary for bidders to provide accurate pricing and timeline estimates. A template also saves time and streamlines the RFP creation process.
How to use this document
To use the RFP template:
- Access the template using this link. Save a copy to your computer or Google drive.
- Follow the instructions, adding relevant sections or details to your proposal request. The RFP template has sections outlining the project summary, scope, budget, challenges, vendor evaluation criteria, and contact information. It’s easy to adapt it to the specific needs of your project.
What is an RFP?
A request for proposal (RFP) is an organizational document used to solicit bids from multiple vendors or suppliers for a specific project. It outlines the project goals and requirements alongside its timeline, budget, and other details that vendors should consider when submitting bids. The RFP process helps organizations select the most cost-effective and appropriate vendor for their project.
Through a request for proposal, organizations can compare bids from multiple vendors and determine which offers the best value. It also allows companies to negotiate terms and conditions and ensures that vendors can be held accountable to the expectations outlined. The RFP process helps organizations make informed decisions and receive competitive pricing and terms on products and services.
How is an RFP different from an RFI or RFQ?
Although sometimes used interchangeably, there are slight differences and purposes of an RFP, an RFI, and an RFQ. Which document is most appropriate depends on the type of feedback needed and the reason for the request.
- A request for proposal (RFP) invites vendors to submit a proposal to provide a specific product or service. A proposal request usually indicates the buyer is searching for possible solutions rather than just a price.
- A request for information (RFI) is a document used to gather information from potential vendors about their capabilities for providing a solution.
- A request for quotation (RFQ) is a document requesting a price from a supplier to purchase goods or services. In this case, the buyer already knows what they need to buy — they just need vendor pricing information.
Our template will help you build a simple RFP to solicit supplier bids.
Request for Proposal Template
A request for proposal template streamlines vendor sourcing into a documented, repeatable process. Download a free RFP template to organize your next project.
Create a basic RFP in 5 steps
Building a basic RFP requires a few vital steps to capture relevant information about the project and its needs. Use the following process the next time a project calls for selecting a new supplier:
1. Summarize vital project data
The first section of an RFP document provides an overview of the project objectives and timeline, key deliverables, budget, and additional requirements. This information acts as a prequalification check for interested vendors, helping them understand the project's scope to determine whether they can meet the requirements of the RFP. This section should include the project name and company name as well as the contact person’s phone number and email address.
2. Present company and project information
Ideally, this section should include a brief history of the organization and its mission. Such background information gives needed context to the proposal request and helps vendors provide targeted, detailed responses. It’s also useful to describe the project's purpose and how the chosen supplier will help the company meet business objectives.
3. Outline project scope and timeline
The project scope and proposal timeline section provides a clear and detailed description of the project’s execution. It clearly states estimated dates for completion, including any dependencies or contingencies of the service.
For example, a construction company submitting an RFP for environmental site services should specifically state the execution date of those services within the larger project timeline. Since other milestones cannot commence until site services conclude, this requirement should be clearly outlined for potential respondents.
A detailed scope and timeline for the project help ensure only vendors that can meet the project timeline will respond with proposals.
4. Highlight obstacles and challenges
This step outlines any obstacles, challenges, or possible roadblocks that may arise throughout the project, such as the need for additional resources. It allows vendors to consider and plan for potential issues during the project. This section expands the vendors’ understanding of the project’s timeline to help them develop more accurate proposal estimates.
5. Provide selection criteria
Step five of creating an RFP includes outlining the bidding process and selection criteria to help define the evaluation process for potential vendors. The selection criteria typically consider a mix of technical and non-technical qualities important for success.
Examples of technical criteria may include:
- Experience in a particular industry
- Familiarity with a specific technology
- Certifications or designations (for instance, ISO certification)
Non-technical criteria may include:
- Customer service data
- Quality of communication
- Reference or testimonials
Include legal or regulatory criteria to ensure the vendor meets all requirements. For example, if a municipal project prefers small to medium business (SMB) candidates or businesses with an established environmental, sustainability, and governance (ESG) rating, these criteria should be outlined in the RFP document.
Best practices for vendors when writing RFPs
Whether building an RFP for the first time or refining the current company process, the following best practices help create stronger documents for better outcomes.
Define project scope and goals
The RFP process works best when the project parameters and goals are well defined and documented. Take the time to be as detailed and clear in the objectives as possible. Let prospective suppliers know what is needed and remain open-minded about their approach. This groundwork helps establish accurate, reasonable expectations for vendors throughout the process.
Select a project point person
Assigning a point person for RFPs ensures a smooth and efficient process. This stakeholder will act as a single point of contact for all vendors and oversee the project. They may coordinate communication between the company and prospective vendors, clarify requirements, and review and assess submissions. This ensures all vendors have the same information and can expect a consistent evaluation process.
Create selection metrics and/or weighting
Establishing selection criteria leads to better selection outcomes. These criteria help identify the most suitable suppliers based on the project's objectives. Selection criteria should be tailored to the specific project requirements and consider cost, quality, delivery time, and vendor capabilities.
A weighted decision matrix helps compare suppliers based on selection criteria. The metrics should be structured to measure the supplier's ability to meet the project's objectives. The RFP should outline the criteria to ensure all suppliers have the same information and are evaluated fairly. Responses are then scored according to the criteria and weighted points to identify the most suitable supplier for the project.
Gather internal feedback
The RFP process should be a collaborative effort within the organization. When building an RFP, solicit information from internal business stakeholders, procurement team members, consultants in the decision-making process, and executive team members. Collaborating on RFPs allows teams to consider alternate perspectives or ideas, outline interdepartmental requirements for the successful vendor, and provide feedback on the document.
Proofread before submitting
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to thoroughly proofread and edit an RFP before releasing it for vendor responses. This isn’t just about catching a typo (although presentation always counts). The editing process verifies an RFP is clear, concise, and representative of the specific needs and requirements of the organization.
Have each department review the document to ensure all necessary information is included. Doing so ensures potential vendors can present quality solutions and service proposals the first time.
Ready to create a concise, informative document for your next bid solicitation? Download the free Request for Proposal Template here.
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