How to Write a Request for Proposal (RFP): Template and Tips

Fact-checked by Laurynas Cesnys
Editor
Updated on: May 22, 2024

Are you looking for the best way to create a winning request for proposal (RFP)? An RFP template can be your ace up the sleeve in crafting a compelling and effective proposal. In this comprehensive guide, we'll dive into what an RFP is, why using an RFP template is crucial, and provide an overview of the essential elements you need to include in your template.

By the end of this guide, you'll have a clear understanding of how to create an RFP template that helps you win more business and grow your company.

What is an RFP Template?

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An RFP template is a pre-formatted document that outlines the essential components and structure of a request for proposal (RFP). It serves as a blueprint for creating an effective RFP, ensuring that all crucial information is included and presented in a clear, organized manner. 

The primary benefit of using an RFP template is consistency. A well-designed template ensures that every RFP you create follows a standardized format, making it easier for vendors to understand your requirements and submit their proposals. 

When should you use an RFP template? Anytime you need to solicit proposals from multiple vendors for a project or service, an RFP template can help you streamline the process. Whether you're seeking proposals for a complex software development project or a straightforward marketing campaign, a well-crafted RFP template can save you time and ensure that you receive high-quality proposals that address your specific needs.

Key Elements of an Effective RFP Template

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A well-crafted RFP template is essential for attracting high-quality proposals from qualified vendors. An effective RFP template should include a clear project overview, detailed scope of work, and relevant background information. This helps vendors understand the project's objectives and requirements, enabling them to submit targeted proposals that address your specific needs.

Another crucial element of an RFP template is a comprehensive timeline. The template should outline the project timeline, including key deliverables, milestones, and deadlines. A clear timeline helps vendors plan their resources and ensures they can meet your expectations within the given timeframe.

Evaluation criteria are also a vital component of an RFP template. The template should specify the criteria used to assess vendor qualifications and select the winning proposal. This may include factors such as experience, expertise, cost, and project approach. 

The RFP template should also include submission instructions and format requirements. This ensures that all proposals are submitted in a consistent manner, making it easier for your team to review and compare them. 

How to Customize an RFP Template

To start, add your company's branding, tone, and business document standards to the RFP template. This helps establish a professional image and ensures consistency across all your communications. Include your logo, color scheme, and any other relevant visual elements.

Next, highlight the unique requirements of the project and clearly define the scope of the project. This may include specific technical specifications, timelines, deliverables, or any other project-specific details. 

Don't forget to provide relevant background information on the company in your customized RFP template. This helps potential vendors understand your organization's mission, goals, and industry, enabling them to tailor their proposals to your specific context.

 

Tips for Writing a Winning RFP

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1. Be concise yet thorough to solicit quality bids from contractors

  • Provide enough detail about your project requirements, goals and expectations so vendors can determine if they are a good fit and submit relevant, targeted proposals. 
  • At the same time, avoid overwhelming vendors with too much information or overly specific requirements that limit creativity.

Example

XYZ Company is seeking proposals for a new customer relationship management (CRM) system. The system must integrate with our existing ERP software, be cloud-based, and include robust reporting features. Our goal is to improve sales team efficiency and customer retention. The budget is $50,000 and the system must be implemented within 6 months.

2. Provide a realistic timeline, project timeline and firm deadline

  • Include key dates such as the proposal deadline, when proposals will be evaluated, and the date the winning bidder will be selected. This sets clear expectations for vendors.
  • Ensure you allow enough time for vendors to ask questions and prepare thorough proposals, while still meeting your project timelines. Don't rush the process.

Example RFP timeline

  • RFP issued: June 1 
  • Vendor questions due: June 10
  • Proposals due: July 15
  • Proposals evaluated: July 16-31
  • Winning vendor selected and notified: August 7
  • Contract signed: August 21
  • Project kickoff: September 1

3. Clearly define evaluation criteria upfront so bidders submit relevant proposals

Tell vendors exactly what factors will be considered and how proposals will be scored. This may include price, technical capabilities, past experience, project approach, etc.

Weighting the criteria shows vendors what is most important to you.

Example evaluation criteria

  • Technical capabilities (30%) 
  • Pricing (25%)
  • Implementation approach (20%) 
  • Company experience (15%)
  • References (10%)

4. Allow bidders to ask the right questions to submit a proposal that meets your needs

  • Provide a way for vendors to ask clarifying questions about your RFP, such as via email or a Q&A conference call. 
  • Compile all questions and answers into an addendum shared with all bidders so everyone has the same information.

Example

Please submit any questions about this RFP via email to rfp@xyzcompany.com by June 10. All questions and official responses will be compiled into an addendum and shared with all participating vendors by June 15.

5. Proofread carefully before sending RFP to prospective vendors

  • Review the final RFP document thoroughly to eliminate any typos, unclear information, or conflicting requirements. 
  • Have multiple people on your team read through the RFP with a critical eye.

Example

Before sending out the RFP, the procurement manager does a final read-through. She catches a few typos, clarifies the language around one requirement, and ensures all dates are correct. The RFP is then sent to the project sponsors for a final approval before distributing to vendors.

By following these best practices and using clear examples, you can create an effective RFP that results in high-quality, apples-to-apples proposals from qualified vendors. A well-written RFP is the foundation for a successful vendor selection process and project outcome.

Using RFP Software to Streamline the Process

When evaluating RFP management software, look for key features that will help you streamline your workflow. A centralized content library is essential for maintaining a repository of reusable RFP templates, responses, and other assets. This allows your team to quickly access and repurpose content, saving valuable time and ensuring consistency across proposals.

Collaboration features are another must-have in RFP software. Look for tools that enable real-time editing, commenting, and version control, so your team can work together seamlessly on RFP templates and responses. Project management capabilities, such as task assignments, deadlines, and progress tracking, are also crucial for keeping your RFP projects on track.

Some top RFP software options to consider include Loopio, RFPIO, and Qvidian. These platforms offer robust features for RFP template creation, content management, and collaboration. They also integrate with popular project management software like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, allowing you to manage your RFP process within your existing workflows.

RFP Template Examples

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When it comes to creating an RFP, having the right RFP template can make all the difference. Here are some examples:

1. Simple one-page RFP template, simple RFP and RFP lite

For straightforward projects with a limited scope, a simple one-page RFP template can suffice. This type of RFP, sometimes called a "simple RFP" or "RFP lite", concisely outlines the key project details without excessive complexity. 

A simple RFP template should include:

  • Brief company overview
  • Project goals and deliverables 
  • Timeline and key milestones
  • Budget range
  • Submission requirements and deadline
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Example simple RFP template by Atlassian

2. Detailed RFP template for complex projects and multi-tier RFP process

Large-scale, technically complex, or high-budget projects warrant a comprehensive RFP. A detailed RFP template for intricate initiatives should dedicate space to clearly defining requirements and expectations. It may span multiple pages to sufficiently cover:

  • In-depth company background
  • Detailed project scope, objectives, and success metrics
  • Technical specifications and integrations 
  • Project governance structure
  • Evaluation criteria and vendor selection process
  • Proposal format and required details

For multi-phase projects, the RFP may outline a multi-tier process with different proposal rounds, such as a initial RFI (request for information) followed by a full RFP. The template should clarify what information is required at each stage.

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Example detailed RFP template by Atlassian

3. RFP template for marketing/creative services and product or service procurement 

When seeking marketing services, creative assets, or procuring products/services, tailor the RFP template accordingly. Along with standard sections, include:

  • Brand guidelines and creative requirements
  • Target audience and key messages
  • Examples of desired style/tone
  • Product specifications or service level agreements
  • Evaluation criteria focused on quality, creativity, and relevant experience

Example marketing RFP template by Confluence 

4. RFP template for IT/software development and technical projects

IT and software development RFPs require sufficient technical details to solicit accurate proposals from qualified vendors. The RFP template should include:

  • Current technology stack and infrastructure 
  • Functional requirements and user stories
  • Technical specifications (e.g. programming languages, frameworks, hosting)
  • Integrations and compatibility needs
  • Maintenance and support expectations
  • Security and compliance requirements 
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Example software development RFP template by DPsolutions

5. Free RFP templates and sample RFPs for reference

Many websites offer free, downloadable RFP templates and real-world RFP examples. Use these as a starting point to structure your own RFP. Some top resources:

Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an RFP

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One of the biggest mistakes is being too vague or too prescriptive in your RFP. You want to provide enough detail to guide vendors in crafting a relevant proposal, but not so much that you stifle creativity or innovation. Strike the right balance by clearly outlining your objectives and requirements while leaving room for vendors to propose unique solutions.

Another mistake is setting unrealistic timelines and deadlines. While it's important to have a clear project timeline, be sure to allow enough time for vendors to ask questions, prepare thorough proposals, and for your team to evaluate and make a decision. 

Don't underestimate the importance of providing background information and an overview of your project in the RFP. Vendors need context to understand your business, industry, and project goals. 

During the RFP response process, be sure to address all questions from potential bidders. Ignoring inquiries or providing incomplete answers can frustrate vendors and lead to misaligned proposals. 

Finally, avoid the temptation to choose the lowest bid over the most qualified vendor proposal. While budget is important, the cheapest option may not deliver the best results. Evaluate proposals based on the criteria outlined in your RFP template, considering factors like relevant experience, technical capabilities, and project approach. 

RFP template: Conclusion

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Remember, an effective RFP template should include key elements such as a detailed project overview, clear scope of work, realistic timeline, and well-defined evaluation criteria. It should be tailored to your specific project needs and provide enough information for vendors to submit targeted, relevant proposals.

Using RFP software can further streamline the RFP process, making it easier to collaborate with your team, manage vendor communications, and stay organized throughout the procurement lifecycle. 

By following best practices and avoiding common mistakes, you can create an RFP template that sets your project up for success. A quality RFP template not only saves time but also helps you communicate your needs effectively, ensuring that you receive proposals that align with your goals and requirements.

About Author:
Paula is an accomplished content strategist and journalist with over 7 years of experience creating compelling, well-researched materials for business and finance audiences. Drawing on her background in journalism and brand messaging, Paula develops informative content that engages readers across diverse platforms, distilling complex financial topics into accessible, authoritative articles. Her ability to deliver valuable insights helps brands connect with their target audiences and empowers professionals navigating the ever-evolving business landscape.
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