Request for Proposal (RFP)

Written by True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

Reviewed by Subject Matter Experts

Updated on September 01, 2023

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What Is a Request for Proposal (RFP)?

A Request for Proposal (RFP) is a formal document that organizations use to solicit bids from qualified suppliers, vendors, or contractors for a specific project, product, or service.

The RFP outlines the project requirements, timeline, evaluation criteria, and other essential information needed for suppliers to submit a comprehensive proposal.

RFPs are critical in helping organizations identify and select the best supplier to meet their project needs. They provide a structured process for comparing competing bids and ensure that suppliers clearly understand the organization's requirements.

This process ensures a fair and transparent selection, ultimately leading to more successful project outcomes.

An effective RFP typically includes sections detailing the project background and objectives, scope of work, proposal submission guidelines, evaluation criteria, terms and conditions, and a timeline for the entire RFP process.

The RFP Process

Identifying the Need for an RFP

Organizations should first determine whether an RFP is the most suitable procurement method for their project. Factors to consider include project complexity, available suppliers, and the need for a competitive bidding process.

Establishing a Timeline for the RFP Process

Setting a realistic timeline for the RFP process ensures that all parties have adequate time to prepare, submit, and evaluate proposals. The timeline should include key milestones, such as the proposal submission deadline and the contract award date.

Forming an RFP Team

A cross-functional RFP team should be formed to manage the RFP process, including drafting the RFP document, evaluating proposals, and selecting the winning bidder.

Team members should have expertise in areas such as project management, procurement, finance, and the specific subject matter of the project.

The RFP Process

Preparing the RFP Document

Project Background and Objectives

This section provides an overview of the project, including its purpose, goals, and any relevant background information. This context helps suppliers better understand the organization's needs and tailor their proposals accordingly.

Scope of Work

Detailed Requirements

Clearly outline the project's specific requirements, including technical specifications, functional requirements, and any regulatory or compliance standards.


List the expected deliverables and their respective due dates, such as products, services, or reports. This information helps suppliers estimate the resources and time needed to complete the project.

Proposal Submission Guidelines


Specify the required format for proposals, including length, font, and file type. Providing clear guidelines ensures that all proposals are consistent and easily comparable.

Supporting Documents

List any required supporting documents, such as resumes, references, or case studies, that suppliers must include with their proposals.

Evaluation Criteria

Technical Expertise

Describe the criteria for evaluating a supplier's technical expertise, such as relevant experience, qualifications, and demonstrated success in similar projects.


Outline how cost proposals will be evaluated, including any weighting or scoring systems used to compare competing bids.


Specify the importance of the proposed project timeline in the evaluation process and whether any penalties or incentives will be applied for early or late completion.

Terms and Conditions

Suppliers must agree to any contractual terms and conditions, such as payment terms, warranties, and indemnification clauses.

Timeline and Milestones

Provide a detailed timeline for the RFP process, including key milestones such as the proposal submission deadline, evaluation period, and contract award date.

Distributing the RFP

Identifying Potential Bidders

Research and compile a list of qualified suppliers who may be interested in submitting a proposal. This list may include existing suppliers, industry contacts, or recommendations from colleagues.

Marketing the RFP

Promote the RFP through various channels, such as industry publications, online forums, and trade associations, to attract a diverse range of potential bidders.

Pre-Proposal Conference and Q&A

Organize a pre-proposal conference or webinar to provide potential bidders with additional information about the project and address any questions they may have. This step can help clarify the RFP requirements and prevent misunderstandings.

Proposal Evaluation and Selection

Initial Screening

Review all submitted proposals for completeness and compliance with the RFP requirements. Eliminate any proposals that do not meet the minimum criteria.

In-Depth Evaluation

Conduct a thorough evaluation of the remaining proposals based on the specified evaluation criteria. This may involve scoring each proposal, ranking them, or using other methods to compare their relative merits.

Scoring and Ranking

Assign scores to each proposal based on the evaluation criteria and rank them accordingly. This process helps the RFP team identify the project's most suitable supplier(s).


Enter into negotiations with the top-ranked supplier(s) to finalize the contract terms, scope of work, and pricing. If an agreement cannot be reached, the organization may proceed with negotiations with the next-ranked supplier.

Contract Award and Announcement

Formally award the contract to the selected supplier and notify all bidders of the outcome. Upon request, provide feedback to unsuccessful bidders to help them improve their future proposals.

Post-RFP Activities

Contract Management

Monitor the performance of the contracted supplier, ensuring that they meet their obligations and deliverables as specified in the contract.

Monitoring Performance

Regularly review the supplier's progress and provide feedback on their performance. This process helps ensure that the project stays on track and any issues are addressed promptly.

Project Closure and Evaluation

Once the project is completed, conduct a thorough evaluation to assess the supplier's performance and identify any lessons learned for future RFPs.

Best Practices for RFPs

Clear and Concise Language

Use clear, concise language in the RFP document to ensure that all parties understand the requirements and expectations.

Flexibility for Innovation

Allow suppliers the flexibility to propose innovative solutions that may not have been considered during the RFP drafting process.

Transparency and Fairness

Ensure that the RFP process is transparent and fair, providing all potential bidders with equal opportunities to submit their proposals.

Timely Communication and Feedback

Maintain open lines of communication throughout the RFP process, providing timely feedback to suppliers and addressing any concerns or questions that may arise.


RFPs play a crucial role in the procurement and project management process, helping organizations identify and select the most suitable suppliers for their specific needs.

By following a structured RFP process, organizations can increase the likelihood of successful project outcomes and maximize the value of their procurement activities.

Developing and managing an effective RFP requires careful planning, clear communication, and a thorough evaluation process. By hiring a tax services expert, organizations can improve their RFP processes and achieve better results in their procurement and project management efforts.

Request for Proposal (RFP) FAQs

About the Author

True Tamplin, BSc, CEPF®

True Tamplin is a published author, public speaker, CEO of UpDigital, and founder of Finance Strategists.

True is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance (CEPF®), author of The Handy Financial Ratios Guide, a member of the Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing, contributes to his financial education site, Finance Strategists, and has spoken to various financial communities such as the CFA Institute, as well as university students like his Alma mater, Biola University, where he received a bachelor of science in business and data analytics.

To learn more about True, visit his personal website or view his author profiles on Amazon, Nasdaq and Forbes.

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