Request for proposal guidelines: 7 essential elements

There are many ways to approach writing a request for proposal. Below you will find Giant Arrow’s super simple, yet flexible and fabulous RFP guidelines.

This post is intended as a guide for any project requiring that you gather and evaluate proposals.

Before putting your RFP together, check out Writing a request for proposal: 3 hot tips to get you started.

Lookout below!! There’s a link to a our RFP Guidelines Downloadable And Printable Chart at the bottom of this post.


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A complex project could end up having a lot of sub-sections. But in our opinion, a successful and focused RFP starts with these seven components. That’s the case for almost any project.

1. Company Info
2. Project Description and Objectives
3. Project Background and Challenges
4. Scope and Specs
5. Qualifications
6. Timeline
7. Response Format


Let’s dive in!

RFP guidelines


Request for proposal guidelines; Section 1

Company Info

  • There’s no need to provide a full list of your services and offerings
  • Do not paste in the full bios of your principals
  • Avoid the urge to copy the entire “about” section from your company’s website

A couple sentences profiling your company is perfect for your RFP. If you have a mission statement, include that as well as any unique or unexpected aspects of your business.

Important: Describe your current and desired customers or clients in this section if that is applicable to your project’s goals.

stickman diving

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 2

Project Description and Objectives
This section should be a short overview of the project, followed by a detailed bullet list of objectives. It’s important to indicate what is mandatory as opposed to items that would be ideal but are not strictly needed, or could be added later.

Don’t just list the attributes the product or service should have, describe what you are trying to accomplish overall.

If you have a predetermined budget and payment schedule, include that here.

hitting the water

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 3

Project Background and Challenges
Next we have a very important, and sometimes overlooked RFP component.
List out all of the problems you are currently having. What led to your decision to look for outside expertise?

Are there known challenges that are unusual? Are there any unknown factors that could present additional challenges?

Have you already attempted to find a solution? It’s a good idea to share that information here to ensure the same mistakes aren’t repeated.

Next indicate how the success of the project will be judged. This helps set correct expectations. You can refer back to this in order to keep the project on track.

stickman in the water

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 4

Scope and Specs
Here is where you list all the specific tasks involved with your project.

This is also a good place for technical details, feature requirements, specific deliverables, functionality, quantities, dimensions, and any specific brands or products you would like used for your project.

The purpose is to determine:

  • The number of individuals needed
  • How much it will cost
  • How long it will take

You’ll need to pick from multiple proposed solutions. Listing the scope and specs to the best of your ability will help you find a firm who’s the right fit.

swimming

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 5

Qualifications

Here you will list any criteria you have for your candidates.

  • What type of, and how much experience do they need to have?
  • Will they need to be able to easily travel to your location?
  • Do you already know the size of the firm you seek, the specific expertise they need to have, or the equipment they need to own?

It is time consuming to read proposals. You only want responses from the most qualified vendors.

swimming

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 6

Timeline
You want a service provider who can give you their full attention. Vendors will need to know up front when the project is to start, when it will conclude and any important deadlines or milestones in between.

In addition, spell out (or ask) whether the project — after completion — will require any ongoing maintenance or work that is outside of the stated scope of the proposal. This is important!

This section should also include the deadline for responding, and the timeframe of the evaluation and award process.

If an initial in-person interview is required before the final decision is made, that can be specified here too.

swimming

Request for proposal guidelines; Section 7

Response format
This is another essential element that is sometimes omitted from RFPs. It’s very helpful to be able to do a side-by-side comparison of proposals. Therefore, having them all in a similar format, with the information in the same order is quite useful indeed.

You can make this easy by referring back to other sections of your RFP:

  • Ask for a list of their qualifications based on the Firm Qualifications section
  • Request a description of how they plan to execute the project based on the Project Description and Objectives, and the Project Background and Challenges sections

You can also request a short bio of everyone involved in providing the service or product.

If asking candidates to provide a budget and fee schedule, include that request here.

Lastly, don’t forget to provide contact info as to where the proposal should be sent, and what format (Word, pdf, etc) you would like used.

arrived at destination

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Finding innovative, smart and cost-effective solutions is an ongoing challenge for every business.

We hope these Giant Arrow RFP Guidelines help you to define your projects, and find the best possible service providers.

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baby with an RFP