If you run a business, whether big or small, at some point you may want to invite vendors to submit proposals for consideration on certain projects. For most such projects, you may need to file a document known as a request for proposal (RFP) that states the project’s requirements and expectations.
An RFP is a document that allows stakeholders to collect information from vendors that could be of benefit to their projects. It helps companies determine the best vendor for the job and one that suits their business needs.
Writing an RFP can be challenging, especially if you’re sending a proposal for a project on which you may not be an expert. For guidance, here are eight essential items you should include in a successful business RFP.
An overview is an introduction and summary of the project. It introduces the vendors to your problems and gives the background of your business. When writing an overview, you must mention what your company does and its expectation for the project.
An overview should contain the company’s history, values, and objectives. It should explain the “WHY” behind your RFP and what makes your business different from competitors—any vendor interested in your business will find this information beneficial during the project.
A good overview also helps you cut down the number of responses. A well-crafted overview increases the number of relevant answers and reduces the number of back-and-forths with the vendors.
An excellent overview is what sets apart a goal-oriented RFP and makes you stand out from the competition.
The guidelines section informs the vendors of what you want to find in the proposal and helps prevent them from sending information not relevant to the project. If you wish to see case studies in the proposal, this is the best place to request them. It’s also possible to request samples of a vendor’s previous projects as well as proposed costs for the current job.
Once you have the proper details, it’s important to let the vendors know the deadline for submitting the response. A deadline is essential since it gives you enough time to brainstorm, negotiate, and close deals.
The description and goals area is a more detailed section that explains the scope of the project. It includes project objectives to assist vendor in learning more about the people behind the project.
This is the section where you can state your company’s problems. Describing your challenges will help vendors become more creative in their responses and offer better solutions.
You can also include metrics and analytics in this section to give direction and perspective to the information the vendor shares.
Various projects have different goals so it’s essential to specify your goals at the start of the project. If you are still learning how to write a winning RFP response, understand that this is the most thorough section of the document.
You can write the project deliverables using a list format or bullet points. Make sure to include everything you are looking to achieve, specifically all points of information the vendor will need when working on this project. Project deliverables are like job requirements that explain everyone’s role in making the partnership a success.
Setting a budget is often the most dreaded yet one of the most important aspects of writing a business RFP. You may not know everything required for the project but having a budget will help make the process more efficient.
Before setting a budget, first do research on standard rates from competitors. Understand what most vendors charge per hour for projects such as yours. Once you have the data, set a budget that’s within your range and state the lowest and highest bids you expect.
Remember to request the cost of each function. This allows you to identify top priority functions and those that bear the most significant risks.
Communication plays an essential role in ensuring your projects are completed on time. When creating an RFP, state clearly when you want to start and end the project. In this way, you only attract vendors who can work within your timeline. If you are flexible on time, it is also important that you state this in your proposal.
Knowing the timeline will help you plan every phase of the project. It also allows for better focus on priority tasks and helps determine the next course of action to put you back on track in case of a delay.
Every vendor needs information on when you will begin evaluating their proposals and when they can expect a reply from you. Otherwise you will be bombarded by vendor calls and emails inquiring about their bids.
Having an evaluation timeline shows professionalism. It allows vendors to estimate when you might be reaching out to them for additional information. It also opens a window for vendors who wish to negotiate some of the terms in their proposal.
The RFP will be of no use if the vendor cannot get back to you for submission. That’s why every proposal you send requires online and offline contacts. You can choose to include emails or your physical address for interested bidders to drop off proposals.
Remember that everything you include in your proposal determines the outcome. Follow these tips to find the best vendor for your business.
 

Dan Martin has hands-on experience in digital marketing since 2007 and provides support for Qvidian, an enterprise-grade RFP and proposal automation solution. He has been building teams and coaching others to foster innovation and solve real-time problems. 
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