Writing an RFP (request for proposal) that gets a response increases your company’s chances of securing the services it needs. A compelling RFP attracts quality vendors and minimizes wait time so your business can complete its projects to a high standard sooner. In this article, we will discuss how to create an RFP, tips for how to write a good RFP and present an example you can use as a guide for your own RFP.
What is an RFP?
An RFP is a request for a proposal. This document lists what a business needs from a vendor to complete a project. Contractors and agencies who feel they can satisfy the business’ requirements outlined on the RFP then bid to win the contract.
Read more: Q&A: What is an RFP
How to write an RFP that will get a response
Writing an RFP that is clear and professional will increase your chances of getting a favorable response. Vendors must understand your requirements, and whether they can meet them, from reading your RFP. Here are the steps for writing a clear, professional and compelling RFP:
- Define your project and needs.
- Write an introduction.
- Explain your company’s and project’s history.
- Describe your project’s requirements.
- Explain how vendors should respond.
- Outline your selection criteria.
- Note your timelines.
- Proofread and revise your RFP.
Once you have created your RFP, you are ready to distribute it and wait for a response.
1. Define your project and needs
Write what your project is and what you need from vendors before you write your RFP. A bullet-point list is a good format for this planning step. Note what you want your vendor to do, how they should do it, where the work should take place and when the work should be completed. You can refer to this outline while you are writing your RFP to ensure it contains all the key information.
Related: SMART Goals: Definition & Examples
2. Write an introduction
Your introduction should explain why you are distributing an RFP and what you hope to achieve by hiring a vendor. Along with briefly explaining the project, state the problem you hope the vendor can help your business overcome. Your introduction may also include a summary of other key points about the project, such as your project’s intended start date and deadline.
3. Explain your company’s and project’s history
Give a brief history of your company and the project it is undertaking. This section gives vendors the background information they need to evaluate your business’s standing and decide whether they would like to work with it. A vendor may be unfamiliar with your company, so include all the details they need to make an informed decision. This includes what your company does, what its values are and what makes it unique.
4. Describe your project’s requirements
Write a thorough explanation of what you require from the vendor. Take your time to ensure you list all your requirements so vendors can determine whether they are suitable for your project. Include your budget and preferred experience in this section.
5. Explain how vendors should respond
Write the structure you expect your vendors to follow when planning their response to your RFP. When all vendors follow the same format, their responses are easier to evaluate. Depending on the complexity of your project, this may be a simple list of headings or a more detailed list with bullet points underneath your headings.
6. Outline your selection criteria
Explain how you will select the winning candidate from your respondents. You should note what your company’s priorities are, including essential criteria and preferred credentials. This section will help vendors formulate a response that shows how they would be a good match for your business’ requirements.
7. Note your timelines
Write the key deadlines vendors should know: when you need their response by, when you will announce the contract’s recipient, when the project will begin and your final deadline, if known. Noting these timelines helps vendors organize their schedules and determine whether they have time to work with your business. Ensure your deadline for submissions leaves enough time for vendors to plan a response. The more detailed your response requirements are, the more time you should give vendors to submit their applications.
8. Proofread and revise your RFP
Proofreading your RFP helps you identify and correct grammatical and spelling errors before you distribute your document. It can also help you spot sentences that could be reworded for clarity and fluency. After you have proofread and revised the RFP, send it to a colleague involved in the project for their feedback. The time you spend proofreading and revising your RFP will make this document appear more professional.
Tips for writing an RFP that gets a response
Follow these tips to develop an RFP that gets a response from a selection of suitable vendors:
Use subheadings and bullet points
Using subheadings and bullet points makes your RFP more scannable and easier to digest than RFPs with large blocks of text. Vendors will be more likely to respond when they can easily understand what you want and need from them.
Write about what you know, if possible
You should ideally only write RFPs requesting services you understand and work with. Your understanding of your services you need will help you create an informed and well-detailed RFP that asks the most appropriate questions to attract the right responses.
Be detailed without being prescriptive
While it is important to know what you want to achieve, there may be several ways to achieve it. Focusing on the job itself, rather than how the job should be done, encourages vendors to use their own expertise and insights to help you. Vendors are more likely to respond if they feel they will have some creative freedom working with you.
Use this example of an RFP to write your own request for proposal that gets responses from quality vendors:
Request for Proposal: New Company Website for Robin’s Antiques
August 10, 2019
Issued by: Robin’s Antiques
Robin’s Antiques Representative: Robin Johnston
Robin’s Antiques, a retail store selling antiques, is in need of a new company website and is accepting proposals to find a qualified source to build this website for us. Our goals for our new website are to:
- Increase our online sales
- Engage and expand our customer base
- Increase awareness of our store
- Present a more professional, modern image
This request for proposal’s objective is to find a web development firm or contractor that will provide the best overall value and results for our organization. We hope to have our website finished by December to capitalize on the holiday shopping period.
Our antiques business was established in 1989. Since that time we have developed a loyal customer base in upstate New York. Most of our customers are aged 50+ and shop with us in-store. However, with more people shopping online we believe there is a great opportunity to expand and increase our customer base beyond our local area. We developed our first website in 2005 using a free online template. It has remained largely unchanged to this day and now looks very dated and unrefined. It is also not mobile-compatible, as we would like our new site to be.
We would like a new company website that is stylish, mobile-compatible, and accessible to people with low vision to replace our old website. This website should include:
- A page showing our store’s history
- A contact page with our telephone number and email address and an online contact form
- An ecommerce store accepting major credit cards and PayPal which we can update through a content management system to reflect our current inventory
- A blog which we can update through a content management system to keep our customers updated on our business and antiques
- Links to our Facebook and Instagram profiles
We are receptive to additional pages if you feel they would benefit our business. You would be responsible for the following tasks for this project:
- Content strategy and copywriting
- Visual design
- Search engine optimization
- Mobile device optimization
- Front-end and back-end coding
- Accessibility for limited-vision users
- Testing and quality assurance
- Training to help us become familiar with the content management system and the process for updating the site
We have a budget of $5,000, but may be willing to spend more on the services of the right vendor. We would like to employ a web development firm or contractor who has worked on retail websites previously, ideally in the antiques industry.
Your proposal should follow the format below:
- Executive summary
- Background information about your business
- Note why we should choose your business over other vendors
- Note relevant experience that would help you deliver our project
- Proposed services or deliverables
- Provide a sitemap outlining all website pages and their connections
- Note the software and programming languages you intend to use and why you believe they are a good choice
- Note fixed price for the project with an itemized costing. Also, note the number of hours you expect the project to take.
- Include name, contact details and website URLs for at three previous clients.
- Any terms and conditions for working with you
Please submit your proposal in .pdf format to Robin_johnston@robinsantiques.com by August 25, 2019.
Robin’s Antiques will evaluate the proposals based on the following criteria:
- Responsiveness to the required outlined in this RFP
- Relevant past experience and performance
- Samples of your work
- Testimonials from past clients
- Quoted cost of the project
Robin’s Antiques reserves the right to award the contract to the vendor that represents the best value to the business, as determined by Robin’s Antiques.
RFP and project timelines
Robin’s Antiques’ timeline for RFP and project is as follows:
Request for proposal issuance
Deadline for proposal submission
Selection of vendor
New website build begins
Vendors may propose an earlier completion date in their proposal.