Writing an RFP

The acronym RFP stands for Request for Proposal. The art of writing an RFP starts before writing the RFP by understanding what is a request for proposal?

Definition of a Request for Proposal (RFP)

A request for proposal (RFP) is basically a publication of detailed requirements by a prospective buyer in order to receive vendor offerings. Usually dedicated to software evaluation, comparison, and selection, a request for proposal  may be issued to select any kind of products and services. RFP publication is an efficient tool to gather solution capabilities, which are then put into a decision matrix allowing the selection of the solution that best fits the requirements.

How to write a professional RFP

It is highly recommended that you to read the suggestions below in order to properly and successfully write an RFP.

  1. Seems obvious but use a formal letterhead and do not handwrite your RFP. Use templates and samples provided in your FREE RFP Toolkit to create your own professional RFP document.
  2. Identify all the key sections of an RFP you should include by simply answering each and any of the questions Why? Who? What? How? and When? as shown below:
    1. WHY?
      Why does your organization need to buy a new solution?
      Answering this question allows you to create the section called Statement of Purpose.
    2. WHO?
      Who is exactly your organization?
      Provide a brief corporate description, and points of contact for future correspondence.
      This information will become the Background information and Points of contact sections.
    3. WHAT?
      What is your project?
      Needs, solutions, and outcomes.
      Information needed from suppliers.
      Proposal format.
      What is the contract?
      Terms and conditions
      Answering this question allows you to fill the following sections:
      • Scope of Work
      • Requirements for Proposal Preparation
      • Outcome and Performance Standards
      • Deliverables
      • Term of Contract
      • Payments, Incentives, and Penalties
      • Contractual Terms and Conditions

      Remember, each of the aforementioned items represents a section on its own and should be considered as is.

    4. HOW?
      How proposed solutions are evaluated?
      Quantitative measurement.
      Qualitative regression to quantitative.
      The information will document your Evaluation and Award Process section.
    5. WHEN?
      When to submit questions, proposal? When the decision will be taken?
      Process description.
      Process timeframe and deadlines.
      Answering this question allows you to fill both sections Process Schedule, and Points of contact for future correspondence.
  3. Statement of Purpose
    The Statement of Purpose is the description and extent of products and services your organization is looking for and the overall objectives of the contract.
  4. Background Information
    Present a brief overview of your organization and operations with statistics, customer demographics, and psychographics. Present honestly your strengths and weaknesses. Don't forget to include the complete information about the persons who will be responsible for handling future correspondence.
  5. Scope of Work
    Enumerate the specific duties to be performed by the provider and the expected outcomes. Include a detailed listing of responsibilities, particularly when sub-contractors are involved.
  6. Requirements for Proposal Preparation
    A consistent structure of content, types of information and documents to provide, particularly technical, put the persons evaluating proposals at ease. Therefore, you should request a given structure for the proposal and provide an exhaustive list of documents you want to receive.
  7. Outcome and Performance Standards
    Specify the outcome targets, minimal performance standards expected from the contractor, and methods for monitoring performance and process for implementing corrective actions.
  8. Deliverables
    List and schedule of all products, reports, and plans to be delivered to your organization.
  9. Term of Contract
    Specify length, date of start and end of the contract, and, eventually, options for renewal.
  10. Payments, Incentives, and Penalties
    List all the terms of payment for adequate performance. Highlight the basis for incentives for superior performance and penalties for inadequate performance or lack of compliance.
  11. Contractual Terms and Conditions
    Attach standard contracting forms, certifications, and assurances. You may include requirements specific to this contract.
  12. Evaluation and Award Process
    Lay down the procedures and criteria used for evaluating proposals and for making the final contract award.
  13. Process Schedule
    Present in a clear, concise manner the timeline of the different steps leading to the final decision, like dates for submitting the letter of intent, questions, attending the pre-proposal conference, submitting the proposal, etc.
  14. Contacts
    Include a complete list of persons with name, title, responsibilities, and the different ways to contact them for information on the RFP itself, or any question.
  15. Do not forget to send your RFP via certified mail.
  16. Since things sometimes get a little more complicated than usual, remember to consult a lawyer for further information before doing anything.


Learn tips on how to write a professional, very appealing RFP in our FREE RFP Toolkit and let providers propose creative, relevant, and cost-effective solutions by focusing on the end and not on the means.

You will also find in it lots of templates and samples of professional RFP letters.

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