Selected Article
Title The RFP Primer
Date Published 08/26/2004
Author Mike Bare
Publication Bare Associates International

Are you considering looking for new services, outsourcing current services or changing vendors so that you can streamline your operations, and focus on your core business? If so, you need to know the secrets of a “quality” Request for Proposal (RFP).

After decades of responding to RFP’s, I feel compelled to suggest considerations that are important to providing a comprehensive RFP from a “vendor’s” point of view. These suggestions will help you identify the factors that will save you time and money by finding the right resource the first time.

I’ve consolidated my recommendations into a basic 3-step process;

Step 1 : Developing the RFP

Step 2 : Evaluating Responses

Step 3 : Selecting the Best

You’ll note that Step 1 is the longest portion of this process. As with any project, if the proper time and effort is made at the planning and organizational phase, the rest of the process is a straightforward glide.

Step 1 : Developing the RFP

A. Provide key information in order to allow your potential provider to know your expectations. Questions to answer are:

Deliverable - Describe the service / product that you require

Your reason for outsourcing

The task or project time line or completion date

Proposal objective, exactly what is the project objective

Ownership of the data provided or generated (Can it be resold or repackaged?)

Is the scope of the work global, national or regional?

Training or testing phase required or not

What services do you expect the provider to primarily offer (allow the outside consultant or company to provide their suggestions or recommendations, potentially providing you a windfall of new ideas)

How your organization measures success

Budget Requirements

Do you have a not to exceed budget? This will save significant time in interviewing provider options that are not affordable. If their offer does exceed your budget, is it justified? Is there value / logic to the increased cost offering?

RFP Response timetable

RFP Response format allows for simplified comparison (Outline, narrative, etc. to include how it is to be labeled, # of copies, etc)

Project Personnel requirements (if applicable) Are substitutions or outsourcing of project personnel allowed. If so under what circumstances? Will this void the contract?

Location of work (yours or theirs)

Your payment terms (perhaps a negotiation point)

How proposals will be evaluated (by committee, board, etc)

Preferences that may impact the award decision

The contact / reply to person at your company or organization regarding the RFP

Format by which you will communicate with respondents

Decision date and notification details

Specify the day on which the award decision will be available, and

how the proposal applicants will be notified of a win/loss.

Contact person

Include contact information such as mailing address, phone and fax number, and e-mail address. Are additional questions welcomed or not allowed.

Optional: Insight into your organization or corporate culture or have the respondents do their own due diligence.

B. Provide questions to be answered in order to get the clear indicators you need in order to make your decision. Questions to ASK are:

Vendor’s Company Overview (organizational structure)

Number of Year’s in Business

Key personnel, especially those to be assigned to your project

Vendor’s view of good “Customer Service”

Vendor Hours of Availability

How will vendor set up the project to achieve desired goals?

How does vendor’s company manage projects of this size?

The company’s qualifications and relevant experience

References (specific to your project – if applicable)

Is vendor able to handle project of this size?

Where is vendor located?

What resources does vendor have in order to complete the project?

Does vendor see any issues with the time requirements of the project?

The proposed time frame in rolling out / preparing for your project

Testing phase and Training phase

Deliverable format

Why is the respondent best qualified to implement your project

Who is their competition, and why are they the best option

Projected costs per the RFP criteria

All information contained in your RFP should be reviewed for factual and technical accuracy before it is released. Add a disclaimer that the RFP does not implies any contractual consideration, the intent is strictly intended for information gathering and all information provided becomes your property.


In a proposal, contractors should explain how they plan to carry out and complete the work described in the RFP. Develop an evaluation assessment form based on your RFP criteria. A best practice method is to use dual spreadsheets, allowing for side-by-side comparison.

First Spreadsheet: Quantitative Assessments and Rate the quality and content of each question’s response

Did the vendor completely answer every question you asked?

Were the answers clear and concise?

Was it apparent that the vendor “knew their stuff” based on their responses?

Was it obvious that the vendor took the time needed to validate their responses?

Did the answers you received indicate that the vendor can provide what you need when you need it?

Compare each vendor line by line

Second Spreadsheet: Qualitative Assessments and Subjective comments from your selection team, which allows for all to share their feelings for vendor responses by question as well as by vendor


Your RFP has been sent and the responses are in. Final considerations before your request for the company to visit your offices, or via versa are:

Does the provider understand your business and your needs?

Did the provider make a strong case for their capability of handling your needs?

Are they flexible? (Willing to work with you at all levels of the process)

Do they have credibility in their industry, perhaps validating the benefit of an established firm over a newcomer?

When you ask them for more information or clarification on the RFP, are they immediately available?

How willing are they to have you visit their offices?

Did the references you received in the RFP give complimentary recommendations?

The above-mentioned items cover the bases from my experience. Hopefully these guidelines will be most beneficial to your success in selecting the correct company to handle your valuable business needs.

Questions and comments are welcomed.