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How to write an RFP that gets results

Emily Herrington
April 26, 2021
How to write an RFP that gets results

You and your staff rock — there’s no denying that. But even though your internal team is versatile and productive, not every project can be tackled internally. Sometimes you have a major initiative or project that needs to be outsourced. 

When you need outside help, you need solutions that are as effective and efficient as possible. Whether you need to write a request for proposal for IT, marketing, financial services, or something else, this guide will show you how to write an RFP with the essential elements for generating successful bids.

How to write an RFP

Before you start writing a proposal request, you need to get your ducks in a row and answer some serious, pointed questions internally. You will need to identify: 

  • The overall goal of your project
  • Must-haves versus nice-to-haves
  • What the winner looks like
  • How your request for proposal process will work
  • The overall timeline of your project
  • Who you will send an RFP to

Once you have a clear outline and understanding of what you’re looking for, you’re ready to write your RFP. These are the components your RFP should have: 

Project overview

Kick off your RFP with an overarching introduction of your project and the goals you are seeking to accomplish through it. Let vendors know what you are looking to hire for and what you want to achieve through the relationship.

This will help potential vendors evaluate if they should propose for your project. This section should be informative but brief — detailed requirements will go in another section. 

Background information on your organization

In the background section, include key details on who you are, what you do, your values and differentiators, and your company’s history. Vendors should have a clear understanding of who they’re proposing to. 

Project requirements/scope of work

This is where you’ll get to the nitty-gritty. This section of the RFP should include detailed requirements on what you are looking for and the deliverables you expect. This section will be the most time-consuming to write because you’ll need to be specific on exactly what is needed for a successful bid. 

For example, if you are looking for a web development company to redesign your website, you’ll need to be clear about if the project requires ecommerce capabilities, ongoing management and support, and any other unique specifications. 

Be as detailed as possible so vendors know exactly what to expect and can bid accordingly. 

Project budget

To ensure you and the vendors who receive your RFP are all on the same page, include how much you are able to spend on the project. 

Timelines and process

Be upfront about every stage of your proposal and selection process. You’ll want to include a timeline for not only major milestones in your project, but also for your anticipated selection dates, when vendor questions are due, and when proposals are due. Make sure your timeline is reasonable — proposals, especially detailed ones, take time to put together. 

When writing your RFP, you’ll want to walk vendors through the proposal process. This is what a sample RFP timeline might look like: 

  • RFPs circulated: DATE
  • Vendors submit questions: DATE
  • Questions answered: DATE
  • Proposals due: DATE
  • Shortlisted candidates notified: DATE
  • Interviews and presentations: DATE
  • Proposal awarded: DATE

Selection criteria

Share how you will select a winning bid, and what metrics you will use to evaluate bids. Describe what the winning bidder will look like, and how you imagine that working relationship to flow. If you have any specific eligibility requirements, list them here, so vendors can self-assess and opt out of bidding if they feel like they are not a good fit.

Questions and required information

You will have questions for every bidder to answer, along with other necessary details, like how to respond to your RFP, what to include with it, and when it’s due. 

RFP sample questions to ask potential vendors

These questions will help you gauge whether the vendors you’re vetting for your project are the right ones for the job. Not every question will be right for every project, so you’ll want to tailor these to your needs. 

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many full-time employees do you have?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • Have you handled a project like this before? What was it like? How did it end up?
  • Do you have case studies from similar projects?
  • Do you have references we can contact?
  • How will you report your progress?
  • Who will report to us? 
  • Why are you a good fit for this project? 
  • What are your certifications and accreditations? 

Use an RFP template 

Work smarter, not harder! You don’t have to recreate the wheel when it comes to writing an excellent RFP. Use a template to make the request for proposal writing move faster. 

Hubspot has some fantastic free, downloadable RFP templates here. You can download a template for a simple, abbreviated RFP, or a long-form request for proposal. Both kinds are appropriate in different situations. 

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Emily Herrington

Emily Herrington is a New Orleans-based digital marketer specializing in SEO, content, and pay-per-click advertising. She can usually be found at her desk obsessing over data and rankings, or in the kitchen covered in flour.

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