RFP 101: Request for proposal fundamentals

If you’re new to the proposal or even bid process, then you’ll need the request for proposal (RFP) basics. Even though, such as all business processes, the request for proposal process has changed over the years, many of the basics have got held true.

This article will brief you about what you need to know about requests with regard to proposals so you’ll prepare yourself to take on the response process with aplomb.

What does RFP stand for?

RFP stands for request for proposal. As a remnant of government contracting processes, it is no wonder “RFP” is more well-known as an acronym. After all, within byzantine bureaucratic processes, responding to an RFP from the DoD is the only way to share your KSP with a VIP who prefers to keep their ID on the QT until they determine ROI. Which all started before text messaging and social media! LOL!

Why do RFPs exist?

Agencies and agencies issue RFPs as part of their vendor choice process. It’s an attempt to produce parameters that enable apples-to-apples comparisons of solutions to a specific problem.

Outside of the United States, RFPs are also referred to as tenders. Instead of “issuing a good RFP, ” organizations “run a tender. ” Rather than “responding” to an RFP, vendors “bid” on a tender.

Other RFP-related conditions

To learn more about common RFP-related terms, you might have 3 options. One, look at quick definitions below (it’ll take less than a minute). Two, read my new movie script for the short film, “Once On a Time in an RFP Procedure, ” later in this article (it’ll take you 3-5 minutes). Three, do both! Take note: If you are an artist who can help me storyboard the movie, let’s talk (think low-budget, though).


The particular proposal is your response to an RFP. If an organization or even agency asks, “How can I solve X? ” in an RFP, then your proposal could be the answer: “I propose this particular solution to X. ” Like Dr . Barbay’s single issue for Thornton Melon’s educational evaluation that ended up having 27 parts, your RFP proposal can be hundreds, otherwise thousands of pages long.

RFP Executive Summary

The RFP professional summary sets the tone of the proposal. It’s usually written first, by the salesman in charge of the relationship. It will summarize the highlights of your offer. There are occasions when it would be the only part of your proposal that some of the issuing stakeholders will review.

RFI: Request Information

RFIs, or requests just for information, are more casual than a request for quote and more generic than an RFP, RFIs are either a fishing expedition or a clarification exercise .

RFQ: Request for Quote

When someone issues an RFQ, or request for estimate, they want you to tell them how much your product or service will cost. Lowest price definitely does not always earn. This is an opportunity to illustrate everything included in your offering as well as potential ROI.

DDQ: Due Diligence Questionnaire

DDQs, or due diligence questionnaires—not to be confused with a security set of questions (see below)— are about compliance . You might see one as part of the RFP process, but it’s furthermore likely you’ll be filling these out throughout your own partnership with the issuer. Along with increasing scrutiny on information security and privacy, you may be filling them out more often, too.

Security Questionnaire

This will be a number of standardized questionnaires designed to assess risk of taking a person on as a vendor. Popular questionnaires include SIG, SIG-Lite, VSAQ, CAIQ, and more.

When to use an RFP

Say you’re an enterprise or government agency. Through study and experience, you’ve discovered five possible vendors which may be able to help solve a specific problem. Now you can issue a good RFP to gather everything you need to understand the solution, its cost, and its impact on your operations right after selecting a vendor. The level of difficulty, number of questions, and deadline day will vary greatly depending on your industry and the sophistication from the solution.

Whenever to respond to an RFP

There are several factors to consider when determining whether or not to respond to an RFP. We recommend that your own standard RFP intake process include a go/no-go step. Only respond to RFPs that you can win:

  • Will be the RFP the right fit for your organization and solution?
  • Do you have a comprehensive remedy that addresses all of the problems presented in the request?
  • Does your pricing match up the budget?
  • Are you experiencing an existing or prior romantic relationship with the issuing organization?
  • Do you have any insight into why the RFP has been issued?
  • Can you meet the submission deadline?

When to use RFP software

If you’re responding to a couple of RFPs, a few security questionnaires, plus spend most of your time giving direct responses to RFQs, then RFP software might not be the best fit.

RFP software falls right into a new category of software known as response management . Response management software’s primary value is efficiency. How you repurpose time preserved will determine much of your own success. Some organizations look for to respond to more RFPs, others seek to improve response quality. Most want each.

If you think RFP software and its automation features would help, then it is important to consider your entire response universe when selecting a vendor. For example , do you only really want help responding to RFPs? Or do you want to automate responses in order to security questionnaires and DDQs, too?

How about proactive plans ? Do your product sales, presales, and support groups want a better way to react to prospects and customers?

RFPs are product sales vehicles, and how your organization reacts is a sales support function. The response management answer you choose will be determined by how much sales support you want to provide.

Sometimes a person wonder if life is a movie…

Me, too! So if you had to break down RFP basics into a scene in your life’s movie it might appearance like…

“Once Upon a Time in an RFP Process”

Simply by Sue Donim


KEYES: Hi, Manager. Nice virtual background. That is the most artistic rendering of taxidermy I’ve seen in some time.

BOSS: Cut to the chase, Keyes. I’ve grown tired of these online meetings. Unless you have a solution to our revenue and inefficiency challenges, I’d rather you send me an email.

KEYES: You’re within luck, sir. It just so happens that’s precisely why I requested this conference.

BOSS: That’s what I like about a person, Keyes. Always presenting solutions instead of complaining about problems. Move forward.

KEYES: We can increase revenue by efficiency our RFP process.

BOSS: Brilliant! I love it…no, I love it! Let’s start immediately. Now…

What is an RFP again?

KEYES: An RFP is a Request for Proposal…when a company needs services like ours, they issue an RFP to identify the perfect vendor.

BOSS: Sounds like a no-brainer. Why haven’t we been accomplishing this the whole time?

KEYES: We have responded to RFPs in the past, but it’s not exactly a turnkey process…yet. RFPs can be thousands of pages regarding pricing, functionality, technology, security, company basics, competitive differentiators, and more. Responding puts a strain on our subject matter experts, sales teams, and anyone else which needs to carve out extra time to assist with the process.

BOSS: That doesn’t audio efficient at all.

KEYES: Well, then you have to take into consideration RFIs and RFQs, too.

MANAGER: Enough with the acronyms, Keyes.

What’s an RFI? What’s an RFQ?

KEYES: Remorseful, Boss. Request for Information and Request for Quote. RFIs often appear early in the vendor-selection process. Companies issue them to find out if any vendors can help them solve a specific problem. They’re more common and open-ended and would likely be used to craft an even more targeted RFP. RFQs usually show up later in the supplier selection process, usually right after we’ve submitted an RFP. This is when the company wants to know specifics on how much our own solution will cost.

BOSS: RFPs, RFIs, RFQs… anything else I should know about? Wait around, what’s that?!

How to write executive summary
KEYES: Good eye, Boss. That’s a cheat sheet upon writing an executive summary . The particular executive summary is high-level content that covers the particular issuer’s challenges and shows how our products and services can help.

BOSS: Seems like a cover letter.

KEYES: That’s a common misunderstanding, Boss. The executive summary is not the same as the cover letter . In an executive summary, we provide a good executive-level summary of how the solution fixes their problem. In a cover letter, we discuss how great we are.

BOSS: I’m much better at that than most.

KEYES: Of course you are.

BOSS: And what do our RFP-winning executive summaries look like?

KEYES: I’ll tell you when we win one.

BOSS: I was afraid you were going to say that.

KEYES: Don’t obtain discouraged, Boss. I have a intend to turn it around. The right RFP automation software will help all of us write RFP-winning executive summaries. Just like it will help with DDQs and protection questionnaires .

BOSS: What did I just say about acronyms?

What’s a DDQ?

KEYES: I am sorry. Last one. The DDQ is the Due Diligence Questionnaire. It’s usually one of the last phases of the response process. In fact , it may come after we’ve already been selected, when the corporation is doing their final research. It typically involves a couple of hyper-specific points as part of their standard vendor onboarding process.

BOSS: And how is that different from a security set of questions? In fact….

What even is a security questionnaire?

KEYES: Great question, Boss. Privacy is a hot button, plus any company we work with really wants to make sure we meet their particular privacy standards. Security forms generally deal with privacy problems such as compliance, infrastructure safety, and data protection. With respect to the company, this questionnaire can be a few hundred or a few thousand questions.

BOSS: Yowza. How long can it take to complete that?

KEYES: Weeks, whenever we don’t have a response process in position.

BOSS: Excellent. Let’s get it implemented. I am putting you in charge of this, Keyes.

KEYES: I think that’s a good contact, Boss. We’ll start with the particular 6-step RFP response process .


BOSS: Looks like I put the right person in charge. You have all the answers, Keyes.

KEYES: Speaking of answers, that reminds associated with something else that’s essential to the smooth-running RFP process device.

BOSS: Indeed, yes, that’s why We brought it up. What’s on your mind?

KEYES: The particular Answer Library , Boss. It’s the key to more efficient RFP articles management. It’s what makes massive questionnaires accountable in a few clicks . It’s where content is marketing-approved and always ready to discuss. And if it’s intelligent—as it should be—it’s able to make recommendations along the way so that we can easily customize every RFP reaction. Plus, once a subject matter expert answers a question it remains in the library forever. Starting from that point, they can take a reviewer role, saving them time plus keeping them focused on their particular primary job duties.

BOSS: That’s it! You’re the winner, Keyes! Best video conference of the day.

KEYES: Thanks, Boss.

EMPLOYER: No, thank YOU! Now, how do we get started. Will you—dare I ask—issue an RFP? Ha!

KEYES: Good one, sir, yet no . I already have somebody in mind.



How is your RFP process performing? Schedule a demo to see how RFPIO can help transform your RFP period piece into a good action-packed RFP-process blockbuster.

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