As noted in last month’s blog, this edition will focus on the key ingredients for developing a request for proposal (RFP). First, when do you utilize a RFP or a request for information (RFI)? A RFP is exactly that, a formal proposal submission by a seller(s) to a buyer which includes the cost considerations, as well as the commercial terms of the offer. A RFI defines the seller’s capabilities, but is not a formal proposal.

The lynchpin of any RFP is a well-defined scope of work (SOW). The SOW defines exactly what is to be delivered to the buying organization. A poorly written SOW may cause friction down the line between both parties due to ambiguous requirements. Another major consideration is to submit fully transparent pricing model(s). Think of the three “C’s” when submitting your pricing proposal: clear, concise and complete.

Although it may seem obvious, when responding to a RFP, make sure to answer all requested questions. This also includes any compliance questions and financial background inquiries. Failure to do so only causes delays in assessing your proposal as well as potentially having your proposal “marked down” for final assessments or even worse, disqualified. Of course, if you do not understand the question, you certainly have the right to seek clarification of the question(s) in order to respond appropriately.

It’s important to be fully engaged in the process, which means to submit clarification questions on the SOW and conversely, be available for questions, or even a formal presentation on your proposal so that there is no ambiguity or misunderstanding on your submission. This is a key point in that the formal offer will more than likely become the basis for any agreement or contract resulting from the RFP submission. It is also critical to inform the buying organization if your organization is the only party performing the duties defined in the SOW, or if you are utilizing partnering companies or subcontractors to fully define roles and responsibilities in any agreements.

Regarding proposing an alternative solution to the one requested, it would be prudent to seek permission from the buying organization in order to do so.  It would also be beneficial to note the differences between the initial RFP request and your proposed alternative response.

Sometimes during a RFP process, there is a fair amount of resistance due to the resources required (time, expense, personal) in order to complete the RFP.  However, the RFP process is still the most effective means for a buying organization to establish the fair market value for the services required. Also, the RFP process in itself is a learning experience. Through the exchange between both buyer and seller to fully understand the SOW requirements, both parties come away with a clearer set of expectations that leads to long term success!