When companies have work to contract out, they will often issue a Request For Proposal (RFP) to qualified individuals, companies and contractors that are capable of doing the job. Whether or not you are granted the job will largely depend on the contacts you have at the company that issued the RFP, but it will also depend on how you reply to the request. Sending a proposal in response to an RFP is much more formal than sending an email reply to express your interest, and should be done in a professional manner. If you have received an RFP on a project that is of interest to you, follow these steps to reply properly.
Read the RFP and make certain you clearly understand what the company wants. Call the company contact on the telephone if you are unsure of any points and require clarification. Interviewing that individual briefly is a lot more professional than submitting a response that misinterprets the request. It also has the advantage of providing a personal introduction to you, which will help when it comes time for the company to review your proposal.
Draft an outline for your response. The RFP you received probably followed a specific format to relate what the company wants. Use that as a guide to create an outline. Start by making a bulleted list of all of the section headers. For each of those, make a list of questions to answer and issues to address. Having an outline of this nature to guide you through the process of drafting your proposal will make it easier for you to reply to the RFP in a clear and concise manner.
Assemble a team to draft the proposal. Some individuals in your organization may have expertise in the field the proposal addresses, while others may have a specific talent for drafting written documents. Assemble a small team to meet and work out the details of the proposal that has been requested.
Write the proposal. The contents will vary from one RFP to the next, but there are some guidelines to keep in mind. Identify and answer all questions the RFP posed, and address any concerns the company has. Do not be afraid to take a value-added approach by identifying key items you can offer but others cannot. You should also display a clear understanding of the requirements of the RFP by identifying specific deliverables you will provide as part of the project, along with a projected timeline for each and a pricing breakdown for all aspects of the proposed project.
Draft the extra items that will be submitted with your proposal. Start by writing a brief executive summary that gives a short overview of everything the proposal says. You should also write a one-page document that explains the focus and expertise of your company. Substitute this with a personal biography if you are an individual rather than a company. Finish by writing a brief cover letter to explain how you received the RFP and are interested in the project, and to state that the enclosed proposal is being submitted for consideration. Include complete contact information in both the cover letter and the proposal.
Submit the materials to the company that issued the RFP. The RFP probably identified a date by which the materials should be returned. Be sure to submit all materials before this date. It is also a good idea to follow up with the company a week after this date to ask if you can provide any additional information on the matter.
Companies rarely make a selection based on the proposal alone; however, it is generally a good policy to always answer an RFP, and to make a good-faith attempt to supply the most detailed information possible, presented in the most professional manner possible.
- Jacob Bøtter, Flickr.com Creative Commons License