A Sample RFP Response Format (w/ Commentary)
A little while back we posted an article about writing a reply to an RFP (Request for Proposal), which provided a basic outline for responding to potential clients. Since then, we have received a lot of questions from the MRH community asking for details on formats to use as well as what sort of sections and content to include. So, we wanted to give you more detail on how to draft a basic business proposal. A similar flow and template can be used if you’re replying to a Request for Quote (RFQ), or even a Request for Information (RFI).
In the below sections, we will walk through a sample format and some key sections that you might want to include in your RFP response.
A clean and simple Cover Page is always a good way to give your proposal a professional image and first impression to the customer.
1. Table of Contents
Depending on the length of your proposal, you may want to include a Table of Contents to help the reviewer navigate and find particular information of interest.
A general introduction is always a good idea. Briefly state the purpose of the document, as well as its contents. Summarize what the reader will see on the following pages.
3. Relevant Documents
A simple list of the relevant documents and revision levels on which your proposal is based can help ‘time stamp’ your proposal. (Example: “RFP-1392-A RFP for Smith Company IT Support Contract, Revision A”). Also include any industry documents that may be referenced elsewhere in your business proposal.
4. Company Overview
A brief overview of your company helps your potential customer understand more about your firm, and compare it to other businesses making proposals. This section should be short, but leave the reader with enough information to understand the size of your company, your markets, and types of other clients.
4a. Corporate Resume, Experience, Capabilities
Briefly mentioning your company’s experience and capabilities, particularly with relevant or similar projects, can strengthen your proposal’s position. It should also help demonstrate that you have the ability to do the project at hand.
4b. Accreditations, Certifications, Memberships
Depending on your industry, a brief mentioning of your certifications can give your proposal added credibility and merit.
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5. Organization and Execution
Consider including a section in your proposal that discusses how you will go about performing the work, the plan for internal oversight, your company’s project management processes, etc.
5a. Notional Organizational Chart
A notional organizational chart of the expected project team included in your proposal helps illustrate you have the proper staffing and understand the project’s scope.
5b. Biographies of Key Players on Team
A brief biography of the expected project team can strengthen your proposal by advertising the experience, education and qualifications of your staff. Include a brief description of each team member’s experience, years in the industry, and educational achievements.
One of the main parts of your proposal in response to an RFP should be a section discussing your approach. In this section, you should tell your potential client or customer how you will go about performing the work requested and achieving the final deliverables that are required.
6a. Project Management
Under you Approach section, detail out your Project Management plan, and how you will go about organizing and managing the effort. Include any special processes or frameworks you use to run programs in your business.
A section that touches on communication may be useful if the project is expected to go on for a while, and should you need recurring meetings with the customer. Here, you might want to identify any standard communication plans you would offer, such as a weekly progress report, a periodic conference call, or on-site visits to your customer.
6c. Software Used
Depending on your field, you may want to consider including a section that identifies any special tools, or brand name software you use. In some fields, this information may be of interest to the potential client.
Including a list of the assumptions you’ve made as part of the basis for your proposal is always recommended. Doing so documents the foundation for your proposal and committed work. At some point, if there is an issue and the customer changes the rules during the project, the assumptions you state here can help you manage scope change in the future. Keep it to the important stuff, no need to go over the top with every detail.
As part of your approach section, consider including a segment on compliance. In other words, how will you ensure what your customer is asking for in the RFP or RFQ will actually be delivered?
If the RFP that you’re responding to includes any stated deliverables, be sure to list them to show you acknowledge what is required as a final output. Even if there are no specific deliverables listed or stated, it is good practice to identify artifacts that you will ultimately provide. Examples include things like documents, reports, software or other digital information.
Include a notional project or performance schedule in any response to an RFP. Include an expected start date, or date when the contract is assumed to be awarded. Bear in mind that some customers will have specific requirements and needs around schedule that you should factor into the schedule and planning you do.
In some situations, you might want to include recommendations to your potential client. Based on the information provided in the original Request, including some initial suggestions or ideas for improvements can give you a leg up against the competition and showcase the value you can add to the client’s needs.
If appropriate for your business, put a section in your RFP response that talks about what you will do after the work is done. Will you provide support, service, or training? Is there a warranty period or something else that adds value to the customer?
Money talks. Your RFP response should include the pricing somehow. In some cases, you may want to send a separate commercial letter that outlines the money aspects of the project. Or, you may wish to include it in the RFP response itself. The pricing information you supply should include a breakdown of payments and milestones, if appropriate, and your general payment terms.
The Key Takeaway…
The above paragraphs simply provide some ideas and suggestions for sections of our RFP response. Regardless, you should keep your proposal to-the-point and relevant. Minimize “fluff” and “filler information” that does not add value or strengthen your RFP response. Everything in your proposal should have a purpose. Modify, add and expand on sections as appropriate for your industry. Ultimately, a clean, professional looking document that looks well-prepared will give the reader a good impression about your company and confidence that you can do the job.
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