What is a Request For Proposal?

Request for proposal (RFP)

What is a request for proposal?

Many businesses frequently search for potential vendors who can fulfill the need for various products or services. Any company or organization searching for a vendor partner will want to find the best option for their business and budgetary goals.

The first part of this procurement process — after initial project planning is complete — is to create and issue a request for proposal (RFP). This document will provide a framework of the buyer’s project so vendors can submit proposals outlining how their company would complete the project.

Request for proposal definition

What is a request for proposal? An RFP is a document that describes the scope of a project and solicits bids from vendors to fulfill the request. Many businesses issue an RFP as the formal announcement of a project, as well as the beginning of the search for the right contractor.

An RFP contains a concise definition of a project, as well as any additional details regarding the project’s goals and requirements. An overview of the issuing organization and a list of contractual stipulations should also be included. Crucially, RFPs also mention specific questions and evaluation criteria that guide vendors’ proposals.

What is the difference between RFP, RFI and RFQ?

Before we delve deeper into RFPs, let’s draw a line between RFPs and two other business documents similar to RFPs in name and purpose.

Request for Proposal vs Request for Information

A request for information (RFI) is typically less formal than a request for proposal, as it seeks information — answers to some questions — rather than a formal proposal for a project. Generally, RFIs help an organization learn more about a new vendor and their offerings, without any direction towards a specific need.

Request for Proposal vs Request for Quote

A request for quote, or request for quotation (RFQ), is a business document that seeks price quotes from a set of potential vendors for a specific product or service order. Unlike a detailed RFP sent out for projects with uncertain specifications, an RFQ only asks for price quotes and is leveraged when an expected purchase has confirmed specifications.

Why should you use an RFP?

Any organization, from private entities to government agencies, can utilize an RFP as an effective method of finding the best solution for the best price. The competitive bidding model of RFPs drives prices down and warrants better proposals from vendors. This makes using RFPs an effective method of soliciting vendors for many different kinds of purchases.

What is the RFP process like?

The typical RFP process consists of four main steps: planning, drafting, issuing, and scoring/selection.

Planning

Before you can write an RFP for your project, your team and any important stakeholders must be fully aware of the general scope of the project. Similarly, your team should consider the factors that will contribute to the selection of a winning proposal. Relying on any existing business intelligence, as well as short- and long-term objectives, will aid the rest of your RFP process.

Drafting

Writing an RFP is the next and most important step. It’s imperative that you include all of the necessary elements that give vendors a clear understanding of the project you want them to complete, the rules you want them to follow, and the problem you want them to solve. Also, a deadline should be included, indicating when proposals are to be submitted.

For media agencies, there is a lot of information that needs to be packed into an RFP to adequately convey your needs. Check out our media agency RFP article for more information on how to write an RFP for the media industry.

Issuing

RFPs may be sent to a specific set of relevant vendors directly or posted openly in locations like RFP databases, media outlets and other public channels. The organization that issues a request has full control over where to share their RFP and what proposals to evaluate and respond to.

If you don’t have existing relationships with relevant vendors, you may want to consider performing some background research first to have an idea of which vendors you are interested in contacting. Depending on the project, going public with the RFP may bring a larger and more diverse set of responses.

After you’ve issued the RFP, it’s time to wait and watch the responses roll in. Email tracking is useful if you’ve sent out your RFP to vendors directly, helping you know when a specific vendor has received it. However, any further data that helps you understand how your vendors are receiving and interacting with your RFP will be even more useful in streamlining the scoring process and improving RFPs for future projects. For media agencies, BriefBid’s RFP tool can provide greater tracking for your RFPs to help you stay on track with every vendor, as well as match your RFP with new media sellers.

Scoring/Selection

Once you’ve received feedback from the vendors, you can work on evaluating their proposed solutions and decide which proposal best fits your wants and needs. Comparing each proposal against a specific set of criteria will be important to the process of fairly scoring each proposal against the rest and ensuring that the proposals cover everything asked in your RFP. When you’ve found the winning proposal, you can respond with a final offer and move on to discussing next steps.

RFP response scoring can be difficult, especially when there are several proposals to consider. For media proposals, using an agency RFP scorecard can significantly improve the efficiency and quality of the selection process.

Start using RFPs today

If your business wants to start leveraging RFPs as a means of finding new vendors for products and services, it’s easy to get started. If you’re in the media industry, using a tool like BriefBid’s media planning software can help you quickly and easily discover new vendors for your media buys, send and track RFPs, and do so much more. Get started with BriefBid today!

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