RFPs or Requests for Proposal are the way that larger businesses and government ministries and agencies buy goods and services.
With the 2010 Winter Olympic Games highlighting Vancouver, the Lower Mainland is going to see more RFPs than ever before. If you want to profit from the billions of dollars in post-Olympic related business either by becoming a supplier yourself or by being sub-contractor to another supplier, you have to understand RFPs.
There's a whole lot of scary-looking acronyms around the RFP process. Get to know them or talk to someone who does.
- Request for expressions of interest - RFEI
- Part of the preliminary stage of a procurement process, RFEIs allow the procuring entity to establish the degree of interest in the marketplace to deliver a given service or product. Often used when the buyer has a problem and doesn't really know how to solve it. The RFEI responses will tell the buyer some potential solutions.
- Request for information - RFI
- The document used in informal, uncompetitive solicitation of information, data, comments, or reactions from possible suppliers. This process usually precedes the issuance of a competitive procurement process. Responses to RFI's are not the basis to select a service provider.
"When buying a used car, punch the buttons on the radio. If all the stations are rock and roll, there's a good chance the transmission is shot.”
- Request for quotation - RFQ(T)
- When a buyer sends out an RFQ, he is generally getting a feel for prices about an upcoming project. He is not opening the bidding on a project. Responses to RFQs are not considered formal bids and, therefore, can be changed if the same buyer later sends out a more formal RFP.
- Request for qualification - RFQ(L)
- The buyer is trying to find out which qualified suppliers are out there. This is often followed by publication of an AVL.
- Request for proposal - RFP
- This is the big one. A prospective buyer publishes or sends out to potential suppliers a detailed set of requirements, so that the potential suppliers can respond in a fairly standard format.
- Approved vendor list - AVL
- A buyer establishes a list of approved vendors so that when a small contract needs to be let, the buyer already has a shortlist of qualified suppliers.
If you're buying products or services, you should really consider using RFPs to help you get competitive bids. RFPs are a great way to be able to compare the offerings from different suppliers.
Let's say you need to buy a new accounting system
This is a high-risk area with potentially great rewards. You can call a few potential systems suppliers for a quote, maybe ask your accountant for a recommendation, then choose one. Unfortunately. you're never going to be able to compare apples to apples. In fact you’ll be lucky if any of the quotes are even remotely comparable.
Why is this? Because each supplier wants to quote you on their system.
If you're spending more than a few thousand dollars, getting some quotes is unlikely to get you what you need.
The best way to compare different options is to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP). In an RFP, you write the specifications, so you should receive comparable quotes. So, you prepare a fairly comprehensive RFP and send it to the potential suppliers. They get back to you with their proposal.
The big problem is: Who do you believe?
The salespeople (consultants, systems integrators, software providers) have something to sell... their computer system. You need answers you can trust to these questions:
- Will the new system provide all the benefits they promise?
- Will it be delivered on time?
- Will it work with your existing set-up?
- Will it need additional computer hardware ... network ... infrastructure?
- How much will it really cost ... installed ... configured ...staff trained?
- How much will it actually cost to run ... maintain ... update?
A well designed RFP will get you the answers you need to make the right decisions for your business. You could save tens of thousands of dollars by avoiding the hidden costs in many quotations.
Here's what Laura Hansen, the CEO of a Promotional Products business has to say about our expertise with RFPs (Requests for Proposal):
"We immediately contacted him and he helped us interpret the questions and vetted our answers.
We are not sure if we would have tackled that RFP on our own as technical writing is not our forte. We learned so much from Barry's feedback that we have been able to take this knowledge and apply it to other RFP's since then.
Oh - and the results from that RFP so far? We bid for Canada and have been short-listed for North America! "
If you want to get more business from large companies or from public organizations, let us help you to respond to RFPs. Call us at (800) 661-9842.